The Man Who 'Shot' Andy Lau

(Youth Weekend)  Who 'Shot' Andy Lau?  By Wang Xiaojing (王晓晶).  November 9, 2006.

Over the past two years, a hot Internet news item is about the "subway vendors" selling tabloid newspapers that declared "Andy Lau Shot Dead!"  The fans of Andy Lau are calling for the abolition of these activities.  As of today, the Legal Star is still selling briskly at Beijing Train Station.  Every hour, newspaper vendors go through the various waiting hall to sell their newspapers.  During "peak time," it seems that every passenger there has a copy in hand.

During the monthlong investigation, the reporter discovered that the vendors who sell the "Andy Lau Shot Dead" tabloid newspaper is a tightly knitted organization.  They recruit reliable vendors on a top-down basis, and the vendors seldom know who their "supervisors" were.  But since the job pays 3,000 to 4,000 RMB per month, the vendors are willing to keep going even if they get arrested.  They order 5,000 copies and their "apprentices" are usually people from their hometowns or can be trusted ...

On early morning of October 12, in Xihui Station, the subway is filled with people hurrying to work.  On this day, the reporter joined them in the hope of encountering the legendary male newspaper vendor with the "northeastern accent."  The reporter traveled to the Pingguoyuan station.  Then he made the same trip twice without any results.  So he changed the subway line and went on the Jianguomen loop instead.  After a few times, the tabloid newspaper vendors still did not show.

In the evening, there were now more people getting off work.  A militia police officer at the Wangjingfu station said: "I am posted here every day.  There are fewer vendors nowadays.  The people who take the subway no longer read these newspapers because they know the news is fake --- Wang Fei jumping off the roof to commit sucide, Andy Lau dying, etc.  Only those who are recent arrivals will fall for them.  They hear the call and they say, 'Damn!  That's big news and so I better buy a copy!'  I recommend that you go to those places where there are more people from outside Beijing, like Beijing Train Station, Qinmen, the Military Museum.  You should find them there."

Following his cue, the reporter began to stake out those three spots.  But after one full day, there was no progress.  On the next day, the reporter changed his strategy.  He focused on the Beijing Train Station (Qinmen Station is under renovation while nothing was found at the Military Museum).  When I entered the waiting room, it was a magnificent sight: every waiting person seemed to be holding a "Andy Lau Shot Dead!" blue-colored tabloid.

There were two teams of vendors.  One of them were all men, led by a middle-aged man wearing a black leather jacket.  The other team consisted of one middle-aged female.  They went around the waiting rooms in Beijing Train Station.  Every so often, they would call out the headline to promote sales.  They worked on the basis of departure times.  When most people on this train have already bought, they would wait until the train left and then work on the "new clients" that have just arrived for the next train.

After the reporter waited for a few minutes at the Number Two waiting room on the second floor, the middle-aged man with the black leather jacket appeared and he started to call out: "Andy Lau has been shot dead!"  The reporter bought a copy and pretended to be a student who began to chat with the vendor.  The reporter said that since the newspaper was selling so well, he wanted to get into the same business near his school and therefore he wanted to know where he can get copies.  The "man in the jacket" was very wary.  He scanned the students from head to toe.  Then ignoring the passengers who had just purchased the newspaper, he said: "You won't be able to sell it!  This is fake news!  No students will believe this!  Andy Lau isn't dead.  This newspaper can only be sold here."

The reporter still wanted to find out about the "supply source" and so he asked again.  But the man's eyes showed that it was impossible, because he shook his head in contempt.  "It is impossible.  You can get it from me at 30 cents per copy and no fewer than 500 copies.  This is not a lot.  I take 2,000 copies myself and I see 200 copies ..."  Then he shut his mouth.

On October 19, the reporter went back to the Beijing Train Station again.  After about 20 minutes, a middle-aged woman in a grey-striped suit appeared.  She held a stack of newspapers and she started to yell, "News, news, Andy Lau has been shot dead!"  The reporter bought a copy.  One RMB.  This was one RMB cheaper than in the subway.  The reporter got an opportunity to chat with her.  Closeup, she was different from ordinary women, because she wore make-up and her clothes were good.  If  you ignore her newspapers and the tired look from lack of sleep, you can imagine her to be a household from a well-off family.

Perhaps because she was tired from walking around, she sat down to rest.  At first, she just stretched her back.  Since the reporter did not seem hostile, and there were a few other middle-aged women chatting too, she let down her guard.  In describing the business of this "irregular" tabloid newspaper, she said: "I used to sell regular newspapers such as Beijing Times and Huaxia Times.  But they don't sell.  My kids are in school and I need to feed the family.  Later, a boss sought me out to ask if I would sell that newspaper.  He said that the distribution was cheap and I could it at 1 RMB per copy.  This was a lot better than my original business.  So I did it, even though there are risks ..."  She said the "tabloid organization" is built top-down.  There are special recruiters who look for suitable vendors and then they persuade and convince.

Who was her "supervisor"?  The woman said that she did not know.  "They move very secretively."  Many of the newspaper vendors do not know the source of where "Andy Lau was shot dead" was manufactured.  "It seems to be across the Post Office!  We only sell the newspapers.  When we sell our lot and we need more, we make a telephone call and tell them how many we need.  They will deliver it to our homes at night.  They know where we live.  Usually, I can get 5,000 copies each time.  The distribution price is 20 cents per copy . I sell them for 2 RMB in the subway and 1 RMB at the train station.  There is no problem with selling 100 or 200 copies each day.  The woman said that she does not usually go into the subway because sales is not good there.  It was better to be at the train station, because there are new passengers all the time.  She can sell them to people from outside Beijing, even though she did not have a Beijing accent either.  Conservatively, she can make 3,000 to 4,000 RMB per month.

The reporter then interviewed the owners of several legal newsstands nearby.  A Mister Zhang told us about the "industry information" that the tabloids yielded better profits.  He said: "We receive Beijing Times at 3.80 RMB and we earn 1.20 RMB.  When the weather is warm and there is no rain or snow, we can sell seventy or eight copies.  That is the bestselling newspaper.  We get Legal Evening News and Beijing Evening News at 30 cents and we earn 20 cents.  Where's the profit for us?  Of course the street vendors are doing better!"

This Legal Star is a 4-ply paper with eight pages.  The entire newspaper does not contain any publication license number, telecommunications license number, price, publication date and everything else present in regular newspapers.  The cover and back pages are printed in blue (and black), but the inside is black and white.  All the other pages are titled "Life and Law" and there are no sections.  The entire newspaper revolves around murder, rape, crime and other such keywords.  For example, "Andy Lau has been shot dead," "Pregnant girl was raped by father for 11 years," "Internet girlfriend ripped off 20,000 RMB" and so on.  Ten photographs are used in the whole newspapers.  Apart from the photograph of Andy Lau on the front page, the other photographs are for pretty girls.  The typesetting contained numerous spelling errors.  Even the big headline on the front page said "Andy Lau was robbed dead 刘德华被抢杀" instead of "Andy Lau was shot dead 刘德华被枪杀."  There were other examples of misalignment and misplacement.  Also, all articles are attributed to the author known as "author 作者."

As of the time that this article went into print, that same issue of the newspaper has been on the "market" for more than two months.  According to to the Internet, the same article appeared last year.  Before that, the tabloid newspaper with the rumor about Zhao Zhongqiang was sold for two years running.  Regular newspaper are either once every week, or once every day.

So after chatting for a while, time past quickly.  At 3pm, the reporter used "wanting to sell newspapers" as the reason and asked this woman again for the telephone number to order newspapers.  But this time she refused outright.  Ignoring everyone around us, she said loudly: "You better not come after me.  You are giving me enough trouble.  They have questioned me.  I almost lost my job!  You better believe me when I say that I will not tell you no matter what!"  So her "colleagues" had suspected that the reporter was an undercover policeman trying to extract information.

"So can we just pay for the newspapers?"  The reporter explained that he had nothing to do with the police.  All he wanted was the telephone number and then he would leave immediately without getting her into trouble.  But she refused: "What do you really want?  If you are really an uncovercover policeman, then you can take me away, you can detain me, you can sentence me, you can even kill me!  I am responsible for what I do personally.  But I will not tell you anything.  If you are not undercover police, then I definitely don't have to tell you anything.  Even if you give me 10,000 RMB, I still won't say!  One hundred percent NO!  I want my head to rest on my neck a little bit longer.  So stop bothering me!"

The "they" that the female newspaper vendor was talking about was the group of people who sell the tabloid newspaper (and also the pirated books).  This is a fixed group of peple.  In the busy waiting room, they hold bags and they sell their wares.  They looked after each other and they warn ever so often if there are militia police officers coming.

Our "negotiation" with the female newspaper vendor was observed by an elderly lady and she advised: "You are all students?  What don't you go back to school?  You should not be selling this.  What if you get arrested?  They have all been arrested before.  If they are arrested, they get held for a day.  He (meaning the man in the jacket) was detained for half a month before being released!"

On October 20, the "man in the jacket" appeared once again.  This time, he was accompanied by two young man around twenty years old, and they were both wearing black jackets and they had shiny greased hair.  They were quite presentable.  The three people found seats to sit down and they began to talk loudly.  But they were too faraway and so the reporter could only catch pieces of conversation from the middle-aged man lecturing the two young men: "You act smart ... you watch carefully ... the police ..."

At this time, a woman who was chatting with the reporter said: "I scavenge for bottles here all day.  They are from one family.  One of the young man is his elder brother's son.  The other is his younger brother's son.  In this business, you have to keep the secret.  You cannot trust outsiders ..."

At that time, the reporter remembered what the female newspaper vendor said: "It is impossible for you to sell newspapers!  I cannot possibly trust you!  If you are from my hometown, then I might.  If I know your background well, I can let you sell the newspapers."

The three people continued their talk over there.  The uncle gave the two nephews an apple each, and they began chewing on the apples ... suddenly, several pepole appeared around them.  These were all people who sold tabloid newspapers and pirated books in the waiting room.  After half an hour, the three got up to leave the waiting room.  But suddenly, they were carrying bags in the their hands and the contents look like newspapers.  In very quick time, they had completed the "delivery" ...

Beijing Station Public Security Bureau:

The reporter asked the Beijing Station public security bureau about their views, and a comrade named Liu said: "We have just detained one of them" but that was about all they can do.  "If we show up in uniform, they all run away.  If we go undercover, we can grab a few.  For those who are older than seventy years old, we can fine them and educate them.  For those who are under 70 year old, we detain them for five days and we fine them and educate them too.  We confiscate the newspapers.  But we are unable to touch the source.  When they come in, they throw a fit and they roll on the floor.  They simply will not say whom they get the newspapers from."

Beijing Subway:

Everybody refers to these types of newspapers as "subway tabloids."  The inspector said: "They are highly mobile and they don't get off the subway trains.  It is very difficult for us to investigate them.  Even if we find them, we do not have the authority to arrest them.  We have to get the public security personnel.  At most, their newspapers are confiscated.  They will not say from whom they get the newspapers.  The fines are not severe anyway.  They have seen it all before and they are unafraid.  At most, they become a bit more careful.  As for the source, nobody knows where it is.  I heard that it is in Hebei.  But there is no proof.  So how can this be eradicated at the root?  We are vexed ..."

The Readers:

Reader #1: A middle-aged man from Shaoxing

I know that it is fake.  But I had nothing better to do, and I bought a copy to see how they wrote it.  Actually, it does not matter if the writing is not good.  It only costs one RMB.  It saves me the time to go to the newsstand and buy a newspaper.

Reader #2: A 19-year-old girl from Hubei

Would you like to read it?  Then you can have this copy.  You don't have to spend money to buy it.  When I first heard that Andy Lau was shot dead, I took a scare.  When I read it, the tabloid newspaper was just too poor in quality.  "Shot to dead" was printed as "Robbed dead."  There was no date, so it meant that they can sell the same copy anytime, right?  This is a con!

Reader #3: A 30-something-year-old woman from Hangzhou

(Pointing to the newspaper even as she read it earnestly)  I don't understand.  I cannot believe that this newspaper is fake.  You look at the date and it seems to be last evening!  How can there be fake newspapers in Beijing?  How can there be fake newspapers in the capital of the nation?  Don't bother me.  Let me read this carefully ...

The Contemporary History of Beijing Tabloid Newspapers