Three top judicial organs issued a guideline on Wednesday to clarify the application of the law in extortion cases involving deliberately fabricated accidents or similar scenarios.
The guideline was issued by the Ministry of Public Security, the Supreme People's Court and the Supreme People's Procuratorate. For the first time, authorities have defined the pengci scam, in which people pretend they have been harmed by another party and then ask that party for money or property as compensation.
Sun Maoli, director of the ministry's legal affairs bureau, said that pengci frequently occurs and is abhorred by the masses because some people are easily deceived or coerced and suffer economic losses.
Establishing the guideline helps deter and punish violators and protect people's legitimate rights and interests, Sun said. Further, it offers standards for judicial departments in different regions so they can deal with the crime properly.
"This fraudulent activity may involve various violations of the Criminal Law," he explained. "In terms of determining whether a case is pengci, judicial departments in different regions have different understandings of the law, which can easily lead to divergence."
The guideline stipulates punishment for the two main types of pengci－fraud and extortion. Other types of crimes such as robbery, theft, vandalism and illegal detention may also fall under the pengci category.
Perpetrators who intentionally or negligently cause harm to others while carrying out pengci scams may be charged with the crimes of intentional homicide, intentional injury, negligently causing other's death and negligently causing serious injury to others, the guideline said.
Li Wensheng, deputy director of the ministry's legal affairs bureau, said that the fraud and extortion activities not only infringe upon people's rights and interests, but also seriously corrupt social morality, causing some people to avoid helping the elderly when they fall or have trouble in other situations.
Authorities will also intensify efforts to crack down on organized crime involved in pengci, as such crimes have increasingly been well organized, Li said.
The guideline put forward clear work requirements for public security organs, the procuratorate and the court, asking them to promptly carry out on-site investigations, the collection of evidence, prosecutions and trials involving such cases.
Judicial departments are also urged to strengthen cooperation to solve problems determining the nature, jurisdiction and standards of evidence in such cases to ensure such evidence is conclusive and accurate, and that punishment is appropriate.
In determining punishment, judicial authorities would take into account elements including the criminal's subjective malice, the means of conducting the scam, the consequences of the scam and the role the criminal played.
Zhou Jiahai, deputy director of the Supreme People's Court's research office, said that in the course of the trial, the court will accurately determine the nature of the case and impose appropriate sentences based on its assessment of the facts.
The ringleaders, the backbones of such criminal groups and those who have repeatedly committed the crime and have caused serious consequences will be severely punished, Zhou said.
The public is also urged to enhance vigilance and awareness of self-protection to avoid being deceived or victimized, and they are encouraged to report to the police in a timely manner once they encounter such behaviors.