China’s top judicial authorities on Wednesday issued a new guideline for dealing with pengci, a type of scam involving a swindler who feigns injury and tries to con innocent motorists or bystanders out of their money.
Pengci — literally “breaking porcelain” in Chinese — has become so common in the country that would-be good Samaritans are reluctant to intervene in public emergencies, fearing people with bad intentions will take advantage of them. Now, with this week’s first-of-its-kind guideline, pengci is getting a legal definition and detailed guidelines for punishment.
The guideline — jointly issued by the Supreme People’s Court, the Supreme People’s Procuratorate, and the Ministry of Public Security — defines pengci as any act in which a person deliberately stages an accident and then asks for compensation from another party through fraud or extortion.
Sun Maoli, director of the Ministry of Public Security’s legal affairs bureau, said at a press conference Wednesday that the guideline aims to deter scammers and offer law enforcement organs across the country a unified guidance for handling such cases.
“In practice, pengci can be perpetrated in various ways and involve multiple charges under the criminal law,” Sun said. “Authorities in different regions will likely have different understandings of the law when handling such cases,” he added, explaining the need for a common standard.
According to the guideline, those who fabricate details while seeking compensation may be charged with fraud, while those who file personal or property rights infringement lawsuits in bad faith may be guilty of fraudulent litigation. Finally, people who stage road accidents and then seek money or property from others may be committing the crime of extortion.
Depending on the specific details of an incident, pengci artists can also be charged with other crimes, including robbery, intentional destruction of property, illegal detention, and intentional homicide.
Pengci cases occasionally make headlines in China. In November 2017, a driver in Beijing was sentenced to nine months in prison and fined 10,000 yuan (then $1,500) after police found that he had deliberately caused over 300 traffic accidents, extorting his victims for cash settlements.
In early 2018, police in the eastern city Hangzhou detained a gang of seven who had scammed people by faking more than 40 road accidents. And later the same year, police in Shaoxing arrested nine people who had caused at least 430 traffic accidents between 2013 and 2018, to the tune of 4 million yuan in ill-gotten gains.
Editor: David Paulk.
(Header image: Shi Yangkun and Wu Huiyuan/Sixth Tone)