Over-the-top April Fool’s Day blackmail prank lands Beijing man in jail

Zhuang Pinghui
·2-min read

A man in Beijing who said he pulled a misguided April Fool’s Day prank on a doctor by writing a blackmail letter and demanding 600,000 yuan (US$91,300) was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in jail for the poor decision.

The man, identified only by his family name Wu, was accompanying his wife, who is a doctor, on a night shift on April 1, 2019 when he decided to pull the prank on the chief of the neurology department of the hospital, identified only by his family name Zhong, according to a statement issued by the Beijing People’s High Court on March 30, 2021.

That night, Wu pretended to be with the military and wrote a letter demanding that Zhong place 600,000 yuan in a flower bed at a nearby bus stop before noon on April 3 or he would kill the chief’s two sons. He also threatened Zhong so he would not call the police.

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Wu then put the letter under Zhong’s computer keyboard and went to the bus stop, where he stayed until 11am. At the same time, the neurology doctor found the letter and reported it to the police.

Wu turned himself in to the police after his wife told him the doctor was being blackmailed. Wu said he was only pulling an April Fool’s Day prank.

The Beijing People’s High Court released a statement about Wu’s case in an effort to remind people that some practical jokes could be illegal. Photo: AFP
The Beijing People’s High Court released a statement about Wu’s case in an effort to remind people that some practical jokes could be illegal. Photo: AFP

But the court was unsympathetic to that excuse, pointing out that pretending to be a soldier and threatening the lives of others “constituted the crime of extortion.”

The statement read: “Threatening the life of the victim’s children, extorting 600,000 yuan with the blackmail letter, placing it on the victim’s desk, and then going to agreed place at the time specified in the letter to check whether the victim was carrying money, these behaviours are far beyond the scope of jokes.”

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Wu received a slightly lesser punishment because he did not ever possess Zhong’s property, and he turned himself in. Wu was fined 10,000 yuan (US$1,500) on top of the 3 1/2 years in jail.

The statement said the court did not recognise “jokes” and many jokes would be considered a violation of the law.

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