Shuangfeng, a rural county in Hunan, previously known for being the “capital of fake IDs”, has made a new name for itself by blackmailing officials with fake photos showing them engaging in scandalous sex acts.
Searching through a court database using the key words PS (Photoshop), blackmail and composite (composite images), The Paper found 70 related cases from 2009 to 2016, involving 331 victims and a total demanded sum of 700 million RMB. Of the 129 arrested for blackmailing, 62 came from Shuangfeng.
According to the Chongqing Morning Post, Shuangfeng County has been criticized five times by the Ministry of Public Security since 2009 for the rampant criminal activities that take place there, with crimes ranging from text message scams to fake ID distributions. In the years 2013 and 2015, the county was pinpointed as the hotbed for Photoshop blackmailers.
In Shuangfeng, authorities put up banners, bills and billboards telling the local population that they are determined to crack down on Photoshop blackmailing.
Of the 331 victims, 78 agreed to pay up, most of them high-level officials in the government or state-owned enterprises. One of the victims is Geng Mingsheng — the president of a district court in the capital of Hunan Province — who wired the blackmailers 520,000 RMB in 2013.
Geng told The Paper that despite being fully aware the photos were fake, he complied with the blackmailers in order to avoid the trouble that it would take to clear his name once rumors started to spread. Another reason to wire the money was to let the blackmailers complete their crime, so they could be held liable for more serious charges.
Although the photos were fakes and the criminals were caught, damage was still done to Geng’s reputation. His very willingness to hand over such a large sum of money raised suspicion. After all, what if the blackmailers ended up getting away with his 520,000 RMB?
Many netizens commented that officials who have nothing to cover up would have no reason to be afraid of blackmailers, hence suspecting that Geng might have a guilty conscience after all. Geng told The Paper that he has been subject to investigation as well, because of the case.
The party requires officials to keep an appearance of decency and many officials have been suspended for sex scandals. A well-known case is that of Chongqing official Lei Zhengfu in 2012, whose sex tape first led to his dismissal and then a 13-year sentence after an investigation led to police learning about all the bribes he had taken.
By Victor Fung
[Images via msn.huanqiu.com]