It was 2013 and Mr. Wang was driving through the streets of Beijing when another vehicle hit his, scratching his body. In order not to involve the police or insurance, the driver tried to appease him by means of a sum of money much higher than the damages caused. This is how Wang discovered a new professional calling.
The eighth meaning of the voice “chinese na“ that the Royal Spanish Academy collects refers to porcelain, such is the link between this ceramic material and the Asian country where it became popular. Now, it is not only tradition to create it: it is also to break it. So, pengci [romper la porcelana]is known as the activity of scammers like Wang, who specialize in faking traffic accidents and then extorting money from victims.
Wang was perfecting his modus operandi over time. Once it identified a car trying to change lanes, it would catch up with it and adjust its speed, accelerating or braking as appropriate, until causing the collision. Then he would go outside with his hands to his head.
Their fuss was supported by road safety regulations, which stipulate that whoever joins must give way. In the worst case, the insurance agreed and covered the repairs. Most of the victims, however, pulled out their wallets to settle the matter; in particular taxi and bus drivers, for whom a violation would affect their salary. At best, Wang was pocketing up to 4,000 yuan (507 euros).
This widespread practice causes many eyewitnesses to accidents to refuse to get involved or to quickly disappear from the scene to safeguard the integrity of their pockets. So much so that the authorities have been forced to act. Two weeks ago, the Ministry of Public Security, the Supreme Court and the Procurator published a joint protocol, the first in the country, to go after scammers. “In practice, the pengci it can be perpetrated in many ways and involve various criminal charges ”, explained during the press conference the spokesman for the ministry, Sun Maoli, emphasizing the need for a general and unambiguous definition.
This new legal framework defines the pengci as “any act in which a person deliberately fakes an accident and then seeks compensation through fraud or extortion”, and establishes specific jail terms. Wang already knows the lesson. At the end of 2017, the Haidian district traffic authorities discovered his particular trade. By then, the man had already caused more than 300 traffic accidents, sometimes up to three in the same day. Wang was punished with nine months behind bars and a fine of 10,000 yuan (1,267 euros): nothing that a few pieces of porcelain cannot fix.