At 3 am, May 26, a high-speed Nissan CTR crashed into two taxis in Shenzhen, China, resulting in 3 deaths. One of the taxis, a pure electronic BYD e6, burst into flames in seconds and burned the 2 passengers on board and the cab driver to death. The driver in the other gasoline taxi, the three female passengers on the GTR and the CTR’s drunk driver were all only mildly injured. The drunk driver ran away from the scene after the accident but later turned himself in to local police.
Such a seemingly normal car accident spiked quite some outcry in China. Besides doubts over why a pure electronic taxi without a fuel tank could burst into fires in the blink of an eye, the biggest mystery of the case is whether Mr. Hou, the guy who turned himself in to local police, was the guy who was behind the wheel at the accident, and whether local police has been helping cover up the case.
According to police report, Mr. Hou was chauffeur for Mr. Xu, owner of the Nissan GTR. He was a migrant worker from the countryside of Guangxi province and has been working for Xu for over 10 years. But there is no way for Chinese netizens to believe that a chauggeur from the remote Guangxi province was the one who drove a sports car in early morning, intoxicated and with 3 hot girls in companion. So the story of a local mafia family trying to buy their way to cover up an offender started to circulate online. “Shenzhen 5.26 sports car crash” has been the No. 1 Top Trending Topic on Sina Weibo, a Twitter-like service in China, for over 2 days.
As reported by Global Times, all speculation started when “a man surnamed Yang who injured his chin went to see a doctor accidentally queued in line together with the injured people [from the accident] and thereafter was mistakenly identified by media outlets as the drunk driver.” Later when local police released photos of Mr. Hou, supposedly the drunk driver at the secene, media sources “discovered that Yang’s injuries on his face did not match that of Hou’s.”
In the most widely-circulated version of the story, Mr. Hou was a scapegoat of Mr. Xu, the owner of the CTR. 手机圳哥, a fellow Weibo user who claimed to have inside information, said in a post:
“1. Xu’s family is the biggest local mafia group. 2. Xu’s family members include a Chinese ambassador. 3. Xu’s father came from the same village as Li Ka-shing [Hongkong's richest man] and they are good friends. 4. The Associate Director of Shenzhen Police Department owns gambling debts to Xu’s family and he covered up the case only to clear his debts.”
To respond to the doubts, local police in Shenzhen released photos of both Hou and Xu. Seeing from the pictures, Hou has several injuries on both his face and chest, which may or may not be results of the crash. Xu, on the other hand, doesn’t have a single scratch on his body.
But injuries weren’t the only things that netizens raised doubts about. After local police disclosed clips of a surveillance video of the suspect drunk driver walking out of a bar before leaving in the CTR, a netizen under the name of 性感玉米 pointed out that there was a white circle over the suspect’s head in the video, which made the whole clip look like a badly photoshopped crap. The original post soon went viral on Sina Weibo and was used as the major evidence to prove that local police helped to cover up the real offender.
Yet, one day later, author of the original post 性感玉米 overthrew his previous analysis and instead said that after a closer look, he thought that Shenzhen police didn’t fake anything and that the video clip was genuine, a conclusion that was exactly the same as what the Shenzhen police department claimed.
In the new post, 性感玉米 refuted his previous doubts by explaining that the white circle over the suspect’s head may be due to a common technical issue with surveillance videos called HLI (High Level Interface) that switched overly bright spots on monitors.
Not surprisingly, the latter post was far less shared than the previous one. More interestingly, when 性感玉米 first raised doubts about the authenticity of the surveillance video, he was seen as a smart pant with sharp eyes, but when he refuted his former conclusion and seconded local police’s claim of innocence, netizens called him a “traitor” who has clearly been “bought out.” His action not only failed to clear the name of Shenzhen police, but further proved that Xu’s family was so power that a once voice-of-justice now had to change his verdict.
To further clear up rumors of a possible scapegoat in the case, local police in Shenzhen later announced that the full surveillance video will be available for permitted media and citizens to watch, and that DNA test results will be released soon.
In the end, whether there was a scapegoat in the case seems no longer relevant. As 性感玉米 himself said: “To refute a rumor is much more difficult than to start a rumor,” especially in a country where the only thing people are willing to believe are scandals of a corrupted government. For many netizens out there, the only thing left in their memory will be yet another scandalous case of the police covering up crimes of the rich and the powerful. This completely shattered trust in anything government related in China will probably one day become the biggest threat to CCP’s rule in the country.