Said to have been part of the Chinese culture for centuries, Ding zui is the practice of hiring a body double to stand trial and receive punishment in one’s place. The term translates to ‘substitute criminal’.
Usually lower class men and women are hired to pay for the crimes of the Chinese wealthy elite. In return, the body doubles get financial security for themselves or their families which they can only dream of. It is said that the rich people who practice Ding zui have close ties with the government and hence the practice is not investigated properly.
Ding zui has gained notoriety in the last few years with people suspecting that it was used in two high profile cases. In 2009 Hu Bin was sentenced to three years of imprisonment after killing a pedestrian while over-speeding. Public debate heated up when it was claimed that it was not Hu Bin but someone else who took his place in court and in prison.
Gu Kailai, as you may know, is a prominent Chinese lawyer and businesswoman as well as the wife of one of the most powerful politicians in China, Bo Xilai. In August 2012, Gu Kailai was convicted of murdering British businessman Neil Heywood and given a suspended life sentence.
However the Financial Times cited “security experts who were familiar with facial recognition software” as stating that the person who stood trial was not Gu Kailai. As this news spread, the term ‘body double’ became so popular on Chinese internet fora that Chinese authorities attempted to censor related messages.