China police investigating teen dropout who pretended to be billionaire, had fake titles

A screengrab of Shi Runlong's Weibo page, with him pictured as posing with US President Donald Trump.
A screengrab of Shi Runlong's Weibo page, with him pictured as posing with US President Donald Trump.PHOTO: WEIBO SHIRUNLONG

BEIJING (REUTERS) - China's crackdown on online rumour-mongers and fraud has snared a fresh target - a 17-year-old junior high school dropout who pretended to be a billionaire, gave himself fake titles and posted photoshopped pictures of himself with world leaders.

Police in northern China's Shandong province said they were investigating the suspect, identified by the surname Shi and one of the characters in his first name, who called himself "Shi Runlong Jocker" on social media and claimed to be a Chinese New Zealander from Hong Kong.

Shi made false claims about his identity, including that he was a board member of the Japanese Red Cross Society and a director at a fictional Shandong Internet Economic Research Centre.

He also circulated fake images of himself with United States President Donald Trump, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Shi is also accused of being responsible for a fake state media article – the official Xinhua news agency said it had discovered a fake article claiming to be from Xinhua that portrayed Shi as a poverty alleviation hero.

"Shi had paid people to write the fake articles and photoshopped fake pictures and posted online... We will punish those who spread rumours online with an adverse impact on the society," the Public Security Bureau in Jinan, capital of Shandong province, said on its official Weibo account.

Shi went viral on Chinese social media websites after his crafted online identity was exposed. Shi's Twitter-like Weibo account, which used to have more than 10,000 followers, could not be found on Wednesday when checked by Reuters.

"The young generation nowadays have too much vanity," one Weibo user said. "They've been spoiled by their families."