China has a problem with fake money: It looks too real to burn

Knockoff yuan bills have come to look increasingly like real ones in recent years, worrying the People's Bank of China.
Knockoff yuan bills have come to look increasingly like real ones in recent years, worrying the People's Bank of China.PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING (BLOOMBERG) - China's central bank had an odd warning on Thursday (April 4): Please don't burn fake yuan notes.

On Friday, millions of Chinese will celebrate Qing Ming Festival, the tomb-sweeping holiday, holding memorials for deceased relatives.

Part of the tradition involves burning fake money and paper models of goods in the belief that one's ancestors will get to enjoy the real thing in the afterlife.

The imitation offerings span every conceivable luxury, from expensive cars to intricately designed mansions.

The problem is that the knockoff yuan bills have come to look increasingly like real ones in recent years, worrying the People's Bank of China, which is revamping regulations to prevent vandalism of its bank notes and the use of its patterns for commercial or illicit purposes.

"(Please) be civil in memorials, and don't buy or use paper sacrifices printed with patterns of the renminbi," the PBOC's operation office said in a text messages to the public on Thursday, referring to the currency by its other name.

The bank's Shenzhen branch also warned last week that those caught illegally using patterns printed on the yuan can be fined up to 50,000 yuan (S$10,000).