Ever thought that being cornered by a bunch of buff loan sharks in a dark alley would be the one thing which would make you feel completely helpless? Well, think again!
Over a dozen members of a Chinese “granny gang” of debt collectors in central China’s Henan province have been sentenced to up to 11 years in jail for menacing their victims with provocative behavior, using various dubious techniques to intimidate the borrowers into paying up.
Fourteen of the senior enforcers, with an average age of 50, and their male leader were found guilty of organizing, leading, and participating in gangster-like organizations.
Some of the 30 women who participated in the schemes, all of whom were unemployed at the time and in need of a job, got recruited in 2013, while engaging in the common elderly Chinese pastime, dancing in public squares.
Obviously, the loan sharks opted for this happy bunch because people usually don’t want to quarrel with women, the disabled, and the elderly.
One of the ringleaders, a blind woman, Gao Yun, explained her reasons for taking part in these schemes: “I had nothing to do every day. When I was asked to help, I did it for fun.” She claims their tactics were never violent, and that it was only a “war of words”, pointing out that her main motivation were wages of about 200 yuan ($30) a day, as well as meals they received on a daily basis.
However, “war of words” is definitely not how one unlucky borrower who got grabbed by his genitals while being insulted would describe what these women were doing. The grannies also resorted to techniques such as hitting and spitting at the debtors.
Apparently, due to China’s lack of a uniform credit system, non-bank lending has become one of the fastest-growing forms of money borrowing in the country. These shadow banks borrowers are often forced to turn to can carry interest rates as high as 10 to 15 per cent per month. Because there is no legal way for the lenders to recover the loans, they sometimes turn to unusual and often violent tactics to force borrowers into paying up.
In one incident in 2015, eight women started stripping to intimidate male borrowers to cough up. “Loan sharks use these methods frequently: harassing a person, encircling them, going to their workplace and not leaving,” said Han Chuanhua, a lawyer at Beijing’s Zhongzhi Law Office. “Using grannies or elderly people is just one of the ways I have seen loan sharks do this to collect debts.”
Except for grannies, some debt collectors have also turned to HIV carriers to help them get their money back. These victims usually come from rural parts of Henan, where HIV infection rates are high because of many blood-buying scandals that have been happening over the last few decades. One of the recruits, a man in his 60s, said that he normally uses his medical record as an intimidation tactic.