Road to the most wanted fugitive
As the mastermind of the largest smuggling ring ever, whose enterprise amounts to 10 billion dollars, Lai Changxing is a legendary criminal, also a controversial public figure in China. Before he fled to Canada when the central government was determined to root out his kingdom, he is indisputable the most powerful man in Xiamen, a rich coastal city. He has smuggled in numerous luxury cars and tanker-loads of oil. In 1997, one single year, 10% oil the entire China consumed was imported through his enterprise. More than that, cigarettes, cooking oil, TVs and many other items are on his smuggling list as well.
Though only with grade school diploma, he overawed, corrupted and controlled almost the entire local bureaucrat, particularly the custom system.
It is rare in China that a businessman's power can override that of the government, But Mr. Lai seems to be an exception. The amazing wealth and his “generosity” is the key. He used to claim, that “I fear no government cadres, what I fear is that the cadres have no desire.” As long as a man has desire, in Lai's mind, he is subject to manipulation.
He owns a mysterious building called “red chamber”, which is actually a luxury club where he makes the cadres feel like in paradise. In a few years, Lai has managed to weave so strong a network of umbrella, that in the investigation, 700 officials, including Li Jizhou, the Deputy Minister of Public Security in Beijing, and Lan Pu, the vice mayor of Xiamen, were found bribed by Lai. If it were not a phone call from one of his friend in Public Security, Lai would have been captured and sentenced to death, rather than being a fugitive now in Canada.
Since then, he has been threatened by extradition all the time. His staying in Canada has become a sensitive point of China-Canada relationship. Losing his aura, how is his life like today?
TIME has interviewed him, showing his no-more-dazzling life in a unfamiliar foreign country; however, recently it seems that he himself is going to stand out to tell his own stories. He starts to blogs.
In KDNET, a popular discussion board, a post named “Lai is blogging, what is he trying to say?” showed up on March 3, which quickly draws great attention.
The name Lai Changxing itself is enough to be a headline. In 1999, stories about him almost filled newspapers everyday. Depicting him as an unforgivable sinner, however, it seems that the dark side of the Chinese bureaucrat is also relentlessly exposed.
In the post, a link directs people to a social networking website, like facebook, called That'sMetro. Named Fat-Xing, the blogger's first post is about his early life, which is completely consistent with that of Lai.
His second post is now more well-known, which is like an apology, also an accusation of the larger corruption and injustice ongoing in today's China.
He talks about smuggling
Let me talk about smuggling. My understanding is that smuggling is just to bring the good things from abroad to China. Nobody wants bad things. About a decade or two ago, all that is smuggled are of high quality. Mr. Liu (boss of Lenovo, the largest computer company in China), isn't your company also founded on smuggling? If there is no trade barrier in the world, would there still be smuggling? That's the loophole of our system.
In western countries, mostly smugglers are simply fined, because they doesn't hurt anyone's fundamental rights. It doesn't threaten people's life. At most it is a redistribution of wealth….
Here, he alludes to the melamine crisis not long ago, which kills several infants due to the illegal addition of chemicals in infant formula. In addition, Meng Niu was accused of using MOP, another chemical that is potential to cause cancer.
A unforgivable smuggler, or a businessman born in a wrong time?
The authenticity of the blog is not yet clear. There have been claims that the website is not trustworthy, because when the decapitation murder in Virgina Tech happened, the killer's blog is also said to be found there. Therefore, people doubt the blog is faked just for advertising for the website.
However, it is the comments left that are interesting. The unpardonable sinner in 1999, after 10 years’ fugitive life, seems to have changed his impression on public's mind, becoming more and more amiable. A handful of comments express their deep compassion with Lai.
Waking up from dream, I found I have been fooled so much and so long before. So are many of my countrymen. Keep blogging, we now stand with your freedom.
I happened to be in Xiamen in 2000. I passed by the Red Chamber everyday, hearing all about your legend and anecdotes. I have also heard that 90% Xiamen citizens think you did good to them.
One of the reasons that Lai, a criminal supposed to be despised by the country but nevertheless favored by the public opinion now, is the low price of oil he used to bring about.
A dialogue blogger 百草止水 noted down in his blog reflects why a cab driver thinks Lai contributed to the oil price that used to be affordable, by competing with the state-control monopolies, CNPC and CPCC.
The oil price just started to climb up at the time. I was in a taxi chatting with the driver.
Driver: Yes, exactly. The money we labor to earn mostly go to the oil companies.
Blogger: But actually they don't earn much either, don't they? The crude oil is getting more expensive too, so not much profit can they actually gain.
Driver: No, you don't know the fact. They raise the price of product oil as soon as the international price goes up, but they fall far behind when the international price slumps. They control everything and we people can say nothing.
Hearing that, the blogger curiously mentioned that the two leading oil companies, CNPC and CPCC, have always been grumbling that the gap between the domestic and international oil price make them suffer from deep deficit. According to the complaint, they buy dear oil in global market, have it refined, and then sold petroleum products in a restrictively low price to Chinese people. The driver shot out a snort of disbelief.
Therefore, the driver concluded,
Blogger One-point-five‘s article echoes the argument, decrying the leading oil companies as shameful:
Last year, CPCC, regardless of its 39.6-billion net profit, asked for 10 billion compensation from the government, claiming that it bought crude oil in high price while sell low in product oil.
The logical fallacy is that, if Lai can smuggle from abroad and earn enormously, there is no reason that the domestic oil price should be lower.
That's why on the internet, a post widely circulated is boldly named: