College graduate flees pyramid scheme in Dongguan


Dongguan Times
May 5, 2009

University graduates who can’t find jobs and fall prey to pyramid schemes make the Chinese press fairly frequently. Today’s Dongguan Times features yet another case: a man was held hostage for six days by a scam ring before he finally managed to escape.

Tan, a 25-year-old graduate of university in Nanchang, Jiangxi Province, went to Guangzhou to look for a job on April 22. After submitting his resume to various job websites, three companies called him up and expressed an interest in hiring him. Tan selected a company called “Qinshang Optical Electrics.”

Requested to go to the company for a training session, Tan arrived in Dongguan on April 29. A receptionist led him to an old building, where he was greeted by the “manager” of the company who informed him that “Qingshang Optical Electrics” did not actually exist, and that he was not permitted to leave without paying to become a member of their sales force.

According to Tan, he and nine other people lived in the same room during his stay there. They would get up at 6 o’clock every morning and start the day by reading aloud from a The Greatest Salesman in the World. The rest of the morning they would practice skills with each other. In the afternoon, after a two-hour lunch break, a trainer would lecture them on the bright future of the “network selling” concept. The trainer also told them that a single person could make 1.8 million yuan in two years’ time. Everyone went to bed at 9:30 pm.

“Everyone appeared very happy when they were playing the games, but when they sat down afterward, they didn’t talk. Instead, they just stared at each other. The atmosphere was eerie and you could tell that everyone had their own agenda.” Tan also learned that many of them were new university graduates.

On May 2, Tan called up his parents and asked them to wire the money to his account.

“I got the feeling that if I didn’t pay them to buy a membership, something bad would happen to me the next day.” Tan told the ring leader that he wanted to join the organization.

The next day, after being warned against trying to escape, Tan was accompanied by three men to go to an ATM outside of a bank. Tan seized the opportunity to throw himself against the bank’s glass door, which shattered and caught the attention of the bank’s security personnel. Tan’s three minders fled the scene immediately.

The cover photo concerns another scam in the city: more than ten young women handed over betwee 3,800 and 10,000 yuan apiece to an agency which promised to put them on the path to a career as a model. The company then disappeared with their guarantee money.

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