Daughter of Chinese official bent on proving her designer handbags are knock-offs to quash public rage
September 30, 2011Jing Gao4 CommentsCounterfeit, display of wealth, fashion, flaunthing wealth, hatred for the rich, Hermes, human flesh search engine, income disparity, inequality, Internet debate, knock-off, Louis Vuitton, luxury, luxury goods, Taobao, You Chenghua, You Yixi
A user “Little Xixi Xi” achieved a certain notoriety and triggered the powerful human flesh search engine on Sina Weibo, after she posted a photo of herself carrying a Louis Vuitton bag on one hand, and a Hermes Birkin bag on the other.
Flaunting wealth is tantamount to playing with fire in the country, where income disparity and the ever-widening gap between the rich and the poor as a result of corruption and systemic flaws has become a hot button. Human flesh search engine, a collective effort by a mob of hysterical Internet vigilantes determined to identify people they deem morally degenerate or relevant to scandals, often comes into play.
In this case, they found that the real name of “Little Xixi Xi” is You Yixi. Her father is You Chenghua, the deputy chief of Jinping County, Guizhou province. A net user who sounds like an insider even said, “She now goes to college in Guiyang (Jing: capital city of Guizhou province), and often buys luxury goods. She plunks down at least several thousand yuan at a time, and often tens of thousand.”
You Yixi’s father You Chenghua at top right.
This raised a red flag. Users on Weibo shared the notorious photo in a fit of anger, often with emotional comments such as “Let’s dig it out,” and “Can’t afford to mess with the second generation of officials!” Almost everyone is more than happy to believe that her sumptuous lifestyle is the result of the corruption permeating the Chinese officialdom, which her father is a part of.
Screenshots of You Yixi’s orders on Taobao.
Embarrassed by the scandal and eager to repudiate it, the Commission of Discipline Inspection at a higher level stepped in. You Chenghua, called to account by his daughter’s behavior, also accepted interviews with several Chinese newspapers. He asserted that the designer handbags her daughter showed off were fake and bought from Taobao.com, China’s largest online shopping service. The commission reached the same conclusion after they looked into the case.
Netizens found some of the father’s quotes, sincere as they sound, surreal and amusing. That’s when they began to circulate his remarks on Sina Weibo.
“I am a person of very low profile. I am upright and honest with my work, and very strict with my child(ren). All my colleagues know my conduct.”
“I came from the army. I have been always very demanding with my kid. I can’t possibly spend over 10,000 yuan (US$1,550) on buying a handbag for my daughter.”
“She goes to college. We give her a monthly allowance of 800 yuan (US$123) per month…She is very thrifty. Sometimes she would complain to me, ‘Watching her classmates eating yummy stuff gives her craving for it too.’”
“I pledge with my 27 years of (Communist) Party membership that I saw with my own eyes that a mail carrier delivered a 80-yuan bag to my home.”
You Yixi, the girl in the center of the controversy, also talked to the press. She said repeatedly that she paid only around 200 yuan (US$30) on Taobao for the Louis Vuitton bag and the Hermes bag. She even showed the reporters with the screenshots of her transactions on Taobao. In the two images, the LV bag was bought at 94.05 yuan on July 11, whereas the Hermes bag cost 70 yuan (US$11) on July 14. The name of the buyer in both transactions is You Yixi.
She said her showing off the two bags was purely out of vanity. In fact, what she was trying to show off was not even the bags. “I just took photos of myself when I went travelling. I was actually not showing off the bags. I, like other girls, want myself to look prettier and at the same time display photos I am satisfied with…I did not know that everyone thought they were designer bags.”
You Yixi said she has been leading a frugal life. “Sometimes on seeing my classmates eating good stuff, I don’t quite feel comfortable.” She is an arts major and likes Latin dance. “So I go to a training center and teach others Latin dance as a part time job. Sometimes I also get stipend from the school for participating in shows. My money is quite hard-earned, so I don’t dare to spend it at will.”
“I am deeply hurt by this incident,” You Yixi said, “I hope this thing can be over soon, and then I can lead a normal life.”
You Yixi showed the two bags in question to the reporter’s camera.
You Yixi showed that the knock-offs were poorly seamed and have defects.
However, most netizens are not convinced. They find fault with her claims, by tracking down her order history, combing through her past microblog posts, and comparing photos. Netizens say they cannot find any record showing her transaction on the Taobao shop’s page. (Jing: Online shops at Taobao document transactions, unless a buyer chooses to stay anonymous at the time of placing the order.) They point out that the fake LV bag You Yixi showed to the reporter’s camera has a dark zipper, rather than the white zipper in the photo she previously posted on the web. They discovered another LV purse in her photos.
Netizens compare two LV bags and conclude they are different ones, as the zippers are in different colors.
You Yixi’s LV clutch.
They also found a lovey-dovey comment addressed to You Yixi by Long Benliang, who turns out to be a rich guy owning a 650,000-yuan (US$99,000) Lexus sports car and a 500,000-yuan (US$76,150) Buick Enclave SUV. Long Benliang, according to some netizens’ relentless search, may have been a contractor for a road construction project, which was supervised by a company under You’s father’s name.
Here is a screenshot of a poll at Southern Metropolitan Weekly.
We at Ministry of Tofu are not in a position to decide if the bags are authentic or not. However, we have a piece of advice: Don’t ever brandish your luxury goods in China unless you have nothing to hide.