When an executive from a Hainan branch of the Agricultural Bank of China decided to disappear into the mountains for eight years, living off of stream water and wild vegetation, it was not in an attempt to emulate one of China's famous poets, Qu Yuan.
Chen Jianxue, former vice president of the Lin'gao branch of one of China's leading commercial lenders, became a criminal wanted by the law after he was found to be involved in a corruption case and charged with the embezzlement of more than 23 million yuan (US$3.6 million) in 2003, reports the Chinese-language newspaper Legal Daily. A total 63 executives, including nine bank presidents and vice presidents of branches, were prosecuted in the far-reaching scandal.
Chen went to ground after his illegal practices came to light and the police listed him as a national wanted suspect and offered a cash reward of 100,000 yuan (US$15,700) or his capture. The whole time, he was never far from home, having holed up in the mountain area around his hometown in Lin'gao on the southern islands province.
He hid away in a cave he dug for himself in the mountainside, living off of stream water and edible vegetation for most of the time. After almost 8 years in exile, he eventually handed himself in to the police last November.
Chen pleaded guilty to corruption and embezzlement, and discussed his experience with the Legal Daily.
He told the newspaper that his family has been through an ordeal as a result of his eight years on the run. In the beginning, his wife tried to hide him in an empty house, but this was eventually found by the police and his wife was sent to jail for three years for harboring a fugitive. His two sons became drug addicts after their mother was taken away. His father could not endure the judgment of the neighbors. Chen retreated farther into his cave as his health suffered, eventually to the point where he decided enough was enough.
"I lived like a rat during the eight-year exile," Chen told the newspaper. When his father-in-law, who treated him as a son, passed away in 2010, he stayed in the mountain and cried for a whole day.
"All I want is to lead a normal life with my family once I serve out the sentence," he says.