When Qiu Chengwei reported the theft of his "dragon saber" he was laughed out of the police station. So the 41-year-old online games player decided to take matters into his own hands.
Swapping virtual weapons for a real knife, he tracked down the man who had robbed him of his prized fantasy possession and stabbed him to death.
Qiu is now facing a possible death sentence in a Shanghai court case which has highlighted concern about the social, psychological and economic impact of one of China's fastest-growing industries.
A spate of suicides, deaths by exhaustion and legal disputes about virtual possessions have been blamed on Internet role-playing games, which are estimated to have more than 40 million players in China.
Qiu's favorite game was Legend of Mir III, a South Korean game which is a huge hit throughout Asia.
It took him hours in front of a computer to win the dragon saber, one of the game's most valuable weapons.
He used a feature of the game to lend it to Zhu Caoyuan, who reportedly sold it without his permission for 7,200 yuan (US$870).
Although this is considerably more than the average monthly wage, the police told Qiu that they could do nothing because the law does not recognize virtual property.
He has pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of Zhu, a crime that can carry the death penalty.
The number of Internet users is estimated to have doubled from under 60 million in 2002 to more than 120 million.
More than a third are believed to be game players, creating one of the world's most lucrative online markets. The operators revenue has grown by more than 40 percent in each of the past two years.
Shanda Networking, the biggest online game company with at least two million users at any given time of the day, more than doubled profits last year.
The national leadership said recently that the country's biggest skill shortage was of Internet game developers.
The information ministry estimates that China needs 600,000 online game technicians to fight off foreign competition. But there is also growing alarm about the social consequences. The government has cracked down on unlicenced Internet cafes, which the official news agency called "hotbeds of juvenile crime and depravity."
Newspapers are filled with reports of Internet-game related crimes and tragedies, such as the suicide in January of a boy of 13 who left notes saying he was so addicted to online games that he had difficulty distinguishing between reality and virtual reality.
Last March, two students in Chongqing fell asleep on a railway track after an all-night Internet session, and a 31-year old Legend of Mir addict reportedly dropped dead after a 20-hour session. Many of the crimes are related to the thefts of virtual possessions.
Hard-core players invest so much time and money into building a powerful online character that the loss or theft of a virtual identity prompts some to take violent action.
At the Shanda customer complaints office in Shanghai, where the staff work behind reinforced glass panels, an adviser, Cassie Fan, said: "We get about a thousand complaints a week. I have been threatened on several occasions. People put so much time and energy into the games that some get extremely upset."
One customer was so enraged that he set fire to himself, suffering serious burns.
DEEPFAKE: Using AI to change their face and voice, a fraudster convinced a businessman that they were his friend and needed 4.3 million yuan for a public tender A scammer in China used artificial intelligence (AI) to pose as a businessman’s trusted friend and convince him to hand over millions of yuan, authorities have said. The victim, surnamed Guo, received a video call last month from a person who looked and sounded like a close friend. However, the caller was actually a con artist “using smart AI technology to change their face” and voice, said an article published on Monday by a media portal associated with the government in Fuzhou City. The scammer was “masquerading as [Guo’s] good friend and perpetrating fraud,” the article said. Guo was persuaded to transfer 4.3
A Malaysian comedian better known for mocking attempts by Western chefs at Asian cooking has had his Chinese social media account suspended after making jokes about China. Nigel Ng (黃瑾瑜), who uses the name Uncle Roger, is the latest comedian to feel the consequences of jokes that could be perceived as reflecting negatively on China under increasingly intense censorship and rising nationalism. Last week, a Chinese comedian came under police investigation for a joke about stray dogs. Ng on Thursday posted a video clip from an upcoming comedy special in which he pokes fun at Chinese surveillance and Beijing’s claims of sovereignty over
TIME TO TALK: Among China’s grievances were economic and trade issues related to Taiwan, but both countries emphasized the need to maintain communication US Trade Representative Katherine Tai (戴琪) on Friday raised complaints about China’s state-led economic policies during a meeting with Chinese Minister of Commerce Wang Wentao (王文濤), who objected to US tariffs and trade policies, as well as issues related to Taiwan, their offices said. However, statements from the US Trade Representative’s (USTR) office and the Chinese Ministry of Commerce emphasized the need for Washington and Beijing to maintain communication on trade. “Ambassador Tai highlighted the need to address the critical imbalances caused by China’s state-led, non-market approach to the economy and trade policy,” the USTR said in a statement released after the
CLARIFICATION: The defense agreement with the US, which has sparked student protests, would improve domestic security and bring investment to PNG, he said Papua New Guinea (PNG) will not be used as a base for “war to be launched,” and a defense agreement with the US prohibits “offensive military operations,” its prime minister said yesterday. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday said that a defense cooperation deal signed with Papua New Guinea earlier that day would expand the Pacific island nation’s capabilities and make it easier for the US military to train with its forces. The deal sparked student protests amid concern it could embroil the country in strategic competition between the US and China. Papua New Guinean Prime Minister James Marape said the