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THE death of Li Wenxing, a 23-year-old university graduate, sparked a deluge of sympathy and anger online. He did not die of an illness or in an accident, but as a victim of a pyramid scheme. In other words, he fell prey to a fraudulent gang that set a trap on a “legitimate” jobseeking website.
A young life came to a sudden end on his journey to chasing his dreams, which is truly heartbreaking!
An engineering graduate from a rural family in northern Shandong Province, Li had traveled to Tianjin after receiving a job offer from a company advertising on Boss, a popular recruitment website.
According to reports, after arriving in Tianjin on May 20, he became out of touch and began asking friends for loans.
On July 8, in his final phone call home, he told his family: “No matter who calls for money, don’t give it to them.”
Six days later on July 14, his body was found floating in a small pond along a highway on the secluded outskirts of Tianjin.
Autopsy results showed the cause of death was drowning, and there were no signs of injuries.
Tianjin police said later that Li had become involved with a gang of pyramid scam artists and that it had detained two suspects as part of its investigation.
This was not the first death involving violent pyramid scheme gangs. On the same day when Li’s body was found, the body of Zhang Chao, 25, also a university graduate, was found on a back road in Tianjin. According to police sources, he joined a pyramid scheme organization on July 10, but three days later, he was badly sick after suffering a heat stroke. The gang members hired a car to send him home to Shandong Province, but the driver and his wife deserted the seriously ill victim on the way and ran way, leaving him dead.
In 2013, 24-year-old Sun Yanyu was beaten to death by a group of brutal members of a pyramid scheme organization in Dongguan, Guangdong Province, when he insisted on leaving the group.
The vicious nature and aggressive tactics of pyramid scheme gangs are threatening social stability with serious consequences.
Invariably, these organizations prey on vulnerable or poorly educated victims by luring them with the promise of well-paid jobs or high returns on investments. Once inside, the members quickly lose their freedom, often with their mobile phones, identification documents, cash and bank cards confiscated.
Victims are followed around the clock and bombarded with brainwashing “lectures” on “shortcuts” to getting rich. They are instructed, often under duress, to recruit friends and family or borrow money from them.
In the end, many members are taken in and become fanatic followers, who begin fooling their own friends and relatives and even loved ones to hop on board. That’s how the scourge is running wild.
Some who find themselves on the hook choose to escape, but few succeed. The ringleaders will relentlessly stop anyone from dropping out. That’s how tragedies happen one after another. Some members who have tried to escape the control of the gangs ended up dead or injured after they jumped off high buildings.
Despite the efforts to curb the pyramid schemes in recent years, the curse is far from being eradicated. In some places, they are getting more rampant. Loopholes in laws and social management leave much room for the existence and growth of the bane.
Pyramid selling activities have been banned in China since November 2005. In practice, however, few cases have been identified as pyramid selling activities and even fewer organizers have been convicted. The current regulations stipulate that only when a group consists of more than 30 people, will it be identified as a pyramid selling group and will police take the case.
As a result, police have no choice but to release the suspects as long as their numbers are smaller than 30, even if there is adequate evidence to prove their guilt.
The absence of measures to punish those accomplices such as the owners of the properties used as crime scenes and media used to spread the scams also encourages the crime.
Relevant laws and regulations must be amended or made immediately to wipe out the crime!
(The author is an English tutor and freelance writer.)