By Erik Crouch
Zhao Xiyong was arrested last month, after nearly three years of impersonating a national government official, and has pled ‘not guilty’ to fraud charges. He and his lawyer admit that he impersonated government officials, but maintain that Zhao never personally profited from the scam, or took any bribes, which was probably the reason he was spotted as a fake.
Zhao got the idea for his crafty bureaucratic caper after being mistaken for a state employee in 2009, and realizing the kind of clout and influence that came with such a position. The South China Morning Post reports:
In 2010, [Zhao] left his home province for Loudi in Hunan. Impersonating a State Council researcher, the local government made him a member of an “expert consultation and deliberation committee for major administrative decisions”, the Changjiang Evening News reported. […]
After two years in Loudi, he promoted himself to the position of a department head within the State Council Research Office. By that time, he had been hired as a consultant for a Kunming based car-parts manufacturer.
He toured Yunnan as a “vice-ministerial inspector”. At every stop, his visit was welcomed by county leaders anxious to impress the central government and they briefed him on development projects.
In Yuxi , south of Kunming, the vice-mayor showed him around the construction site of a “national defense” theme park. Wearing a Western suit and a construction site hard hat, he praised the construction company for its contribution to education in national defence, according to a profile in the Southern Metropolis Weekly.
His Catch Me if You Can-style antics came to a close when the State Council Research Office saw images of Zhao online, labeled as, well, the head of the State Council Research Office. If convicted, he could face up to ten years in prison.