In 2011, Chen Junjie (roughly “Jwin-jyeh”), an average, law-abiding Chinese citizen, had been living the coastal province of Guangdong for nine years when he decided to apply for local residence.
Despite everything else seemingly being in order, the Guangdong police turned down Chen’s application without explanation. He also encountered difficulties with his housing loans and driver’s license.
It was only in 2015 that, in a Kafkaesque episode, the authorities informed Chen that the source of his bureaucratic woes was a three-year prison sentence he had supposedly served for a 2008 attempt to rob a bank in the Panyu District of Guangzhou, the provincial capital.
“I’ve never been to Panyu and I’ve not been in jail either,” Chen, who is from neighboring Hunan Province and lives in the megalopolis of Shenzhen, protested in an interview with The Paper, a state-run web publication based in Shanghai that reported the case on May 17.
By pulling some connections, Chen was allowed to confirm that his identity had been stolen by the now-released convict, to whom he bore no resemblance.
Chen’s misfortune represents an embarrassing oversight, if not evidence of corruption, by the police, court, and prosecuting body, as they ought to have confirmed the real convict’s identity.
In fact, lawyer and scholar of criminal law Mao Lixin told The Paper that such a case like Chen’s should be “virtually impossible,” and that he suspects “the personnel investigating and handling the case neglected their duties.”
To make matters worse, police seemed to work at a snail’s pace in correcting Chen’s record, even after getting his fingerprints. “I’ve called many times to check up and every time they said they’re still processing the matter,” he said.
Netizen comments expressed sympathy for Chen, and following media coverage, the police announced promises to “process his case as soon as possible.”