Chinese Official Blows Millions on Online Game Addiction

June 19, 2013 Updated: June 19, 2013

A local official in China became addicted to an online video game and embezzled 2.6 million yuan ($424,247) in public funds to support his obsession.

The official, surnamed Chu, worked for the Neighborhood Cooperative Economic Administration Center in Nanjing City. He was in charge of managing taxpayer money.

In 2005 he discovered the Internet game Zhengtu, one of the more popular in the genre of games known as “massively multiplayer online role-playing games.” It involves assuming a character in the game’s fantasy world and interacting with other players. World of Warcraft is among the most well-known. Chinese game makers have emulated many of World of Warcraft’s features to create their own versions. Chu found Zhengtu’s array of weapons and other virtual items irresistible, and was quickly hooked.

Chu spent up to 10,000 yuan ($1,633) on some of the virtual equipment in the game, according to Chinese news accounts. He spent 100,000 yuan ($16,327) to open two “high-level” game accounts instead of just one regular account.

Before long he had used all his savings. In 2006 he decided to take advantage of his access to public funds and began withdrawing money from the bank account of the Administration Center.

With this money, he flew to other cities almost every weekend to meet with fellow game-players and participate in contests. Sometimes he also paid the travel expenses of players who came to visit him, according to an article on the Sina news portal.

After five years of this behavior, his wife divorced him.

By 2012, Chu calculated that he had spent around 2.6 million yuan of tax dollars on the game. Finally he turned himself in and was sentenced to 11 years in prison.

“A neighborhood official can do this kind of messy thing for six years without being caught!” a Sina Weibo netizen lamented.

“China is a country with the most corrupt government and unlawful officials in the world,” another wrote.

With research by Ariel Tian and translation by Rebecca Chen.