Over the Spring Festival, Liuzhou’s cellphone service was pretty abysmal. Often there was no service. Especially, SMS messages often failed. I just put it down to China’s addiction to SMS and services like WeChat, the phone based chat service from Tencent who are also responsible for QQ, China’s long established computer based messenger service. With millions of people on holiday with nothing worth watching on TV, I guessed they were all sending each other messages and overloading the system. I’m still sure that was at least part of the problem.
However, there was more to it than that. Police have arrested a 29 year old man, named only as Li on suspicion of “the crime of destruction of public telecommunications facilities”. It seems Mr Li had set up an SMS base station and was sending out around 10,000 spam messages a day, mainly advertising expensive, but fake, consumer goods such as designer handbags, watches, shoes, etc. It is estimated that he sent over 130,000 messages over the holiday period. It seems he was paid one mao (1毛/ 角) per message., meaning he netted some 13,000元.
It also turns out that the same Mr Li was arrested in December 2011 for the same thing. He was then sentenced in Nanjing to three years in prison. However, the sentence was suspended.
Liuzhou police have Li in detention while they continue their investigations. It is also probable that the three year sentence from Nanjing will now be un-suspended.
Incidentally, most of the spam SMS messages I receive come from China Mobile, the service provider. I bet they send more than 10,000 a day!