In an attempt to evade debt totaling RMB25 million, a 59-year-old woman from Wuhan decided to dramatically change her appearance through plastic surgery.
Reuters reports that the woman, known as Zhu Najuan, fled to Shenzhen by train post-surgery, and admitted to using other people’s identification to avoid being recognized. She also confessed to funding her operation through borrowed bank cards.
“We were very surprised at the scene,” an officer told Xinhua News, noting that the debt evader “looked in her thirties and was different from the photos we had.”
China is presently trying to diversify its economic growth, and steer the country’s economic dependence away from state-funded infrastructure investment and heavy industry by developing a ‘credit society.’
As part of the plan, representatives of over 300 cities issued a declaration in early July that promised to increase available consumer credit.
Zhu’s case highlights the challenges of such an endeavor, as China faces a rapid increase in household debt that accounted for approximately 50 percent of the country’s GDP in 2016. That number has doubled in under a decade.
As China establishes a countrywide credit system, authorities throughout the nation are looking for more ways to prosecute those who default on their debts.
In Jiangsu, courts have attempted to shame debtors into paying up by applying a pre-recorded message to their phones. The message informs callers of the person’s debts and asks that they encourage them to “fulfill their legal obligations.”
Wuhan has also been brisk in cracking down on those who accumulate debt, having detained 186 people in the first half of 2017.
Changing one’s appearance through surgery is not uncommon, although typically those who go under the knife are not attempting to avoid recognition.
In November 2016, a Chinese man spent RMB1 million to look like billionaire Jack Ma, in July 2015, a Nanjing man underwent surgery to look like North Korea’s supreme leader Kim Jong-un and in 2014, a man from Anhui was surgically transformed to look like fabled Communist hero Lei Feng.
[Images via China Daily, h/t Asia One]