A local official whose job it is to ensure a safe working environment reported to police Wednesday that he has been targeted by blackmailers using Photoshopped sex photos, an increasingly common way of preying on officials in China.
An anonymous official from the Beijing Administration of Work Safety discipline department, who dealt with the case, said the official, whose name he would also not reveal, had been targeted by extortionists who had sent two blackmail letters in the last month.
This is the latest incident in a campaign of harassment against staff at the administration, he said Thursday, appealing for the local police to quickly establish the identity of the perpetrators and protect employees.
"The photos are definitely fake, and poorly Photoshopped so that the size of the head and body are very disproportionate," said the officer.
"We have confidence in our department, so we quickly reported this case to police as we don't want our colleagues to be harassed," said the officer. "We submitted the letters to police yesterday [Wednesday], and they have started an investigation."
The first blackmail letter asked for 200,000 yuan ($32,100) and the second for 300,000 yuan, or the letters threatened a "sex tape with other people will be uploaded to the Internet and photos will be posted in all the streets around your home," reported the Beijing Youth Daily Thursday.
Two photographs were sent with the letters, in which a picture of the official from a meeting he attended was Photoshopped into a blurry sex photo, the report said. Only his face can be clearly seen.
The discipline office official told the Global Times that they had been receiving threats since the beginning of this year.
"Earlier this year our staff received many phone calls. They called their mobile number directly, saying they had been hired to chop off our colleagues' legs if we didn't pay up," he said.
Three staff from the administration had also been receiving fake sex photos since August, including the latest case.
"We guess there are more victims who didn't report this. Anyway, the blackmailers are getting bolder over time, so who knows if tomorrow they will threaten a minister? The police should act now and protect us, they should guard public servants," said the officer.
Officials are increasingly a target of extortion in China.
The victim told the Beijing Youth Daily that he had been to Qinghai Province in September and was told by local officials that they were also troubled by similar letters.
"Most officers I know choose to remain silent, as they feel it's shameful even if they are innocent and the pictures are fake," he told the paper.
He added that he had discussed the issue with his wife, who said she trusted him.
Earlier this month, six similar cases of top officials in Zhangjiajie, Hunan Province, being blackmailed were reported to police, the Xiaoxiang Morning Herald said. Police are still investigating.
According to the text of the letters published by the Beijing Youth Daily, the letters claimed to have been sent by private detectives. The postmarks indicated they were sent from several different provinces nationwide.
According to an employee of a Beijing-based detective agency the Global Times called, they can provide services to "frame" targets, according to what the customer needs, which includes Photoshopping.
"We can take a 2-meter close-up and then send Photoshopped pictures to the target. Actually, many customers have asked as to do so during the past three years. They only need to provide us with the target's photo, address and car plate number," said the employee, surnamed Zhang.
"We don't really care whether the target is an official. The cost is 6,000 yuan per week," said Zhang.
Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau media officer Zi Xiangdong had not responded to faxed questions regarding the case by press time.