BEIJING — Did you hear the one about the police chief’s wife, the Porsche and the torrent of expletives? Well, most of Chongqing did, and now the police chief has been fired.
It’s the kind of story that’s been told gazillions of times in China, but one that never ceases to stick in the common person’s craw.
To start at the beginning: Tong Xiaohua was the head of the Shichuan police station in the Yubei district of Chongqing, a city in southwestern China famous for hot pot and hip-hop. At the last census, in 2010, Shichuan had a population of 39,645, so Tong wasn’t exactly at the upper echelons of China’s security apparatus.
His wife, Li Yue, was driving her red Porsche sports car in the city on July 30 when she tried to make a U-turn on a pedestrian crossing. But she couldn’t complete the illegal maneuver because the driver of a Chery, a low-cost Chinese SUV, was in the way.
Li got out of the car, dressed in an outfit like something out the pages of Vogue, complete with a wide-brimmed hat and spiky high heels, and let rip at the hapless driver.
Unleashing a torrent of abuse at the man, she dissed his “shabby clothes” and mocked him for driving a “beggar’s car,” the man’s wife told the Beijing News. And she slapped him, and he slapped her back so hard that her hat flew off her head. She had to brace herself on the hood of her car.
Chongqing police came to the scene and fined Li about $28 for turning on a pedestrian crossing, plus another $7 for wearing clothes deemed unsafe for driving. She also had two points deducted from her driving license, the South China Morning Post reported.
She probably thought that was the end of it. It was not. There was video, and it went viral after Pear, a popular streaming website, posted the footage.
That spurred the Chongqing police force into further action. After a two-week investigation, the authorities said Sunday that Tong had been sacked for a “disciplinary violation” over his wife’s behavior.
“We will learn from this incident and maintain strict police discipline. We will start from one small household to ensure everyone’s safety in society,” the statement said.
After that first video appeared, others soon emerged online, including one in which Li bragged about always speeding, running red lights and avoiding responsibility for traffic violations, the China Daily reported. This led to a vigorous online discussion about Li using her police connections to avoid the kind of punishments that would befall anyone else acting the same way.
“Porsche Woman” soon became the most-searched phrase on Baidu, the Chinese search engine, and variations of the hashtag #FemalePorscheDriver were trending on Weibo, China’s answer to Twitter, for four consecutive days.
Weibo discussions variously described the woman as a hot-tempered “Queen of Racing” who picked multiple fights on the road, and as a jobless housewife who lives in a $1.1 million villa and owns two Porsches. The meme of Li in her signature hat and flashy sunglasses was all over social media timelines, with many people asking: How can a local police chief afford such luxuries?
Li, 44, has been running construction and logistics businesses for about 20 years, the paper reported. Still, her ability to buy deluxe vehicles with legitimate earnings was widely questioned online.
The red Porsche coupe was third-hand but still cost $90,000. Meanwhile, Tong drives a BMW 525 that his wife bought in 2015 for $60,000, the state-run China Daily reported.
In a statement Monday, police said Li has been held accountable for her bad driving. She had 29 traffic offenses since she began to drive the vehicle in March 2016 — including one for running red lights — although she had not received any speeding tickets.
Li issued a statement of her own.
“I said a lot of irresponsible things due to my arrogance, vanity, and temper,” Li said in an apology letter Monday, according to Sixth Tone. “I was a disgrace to the Chongqing people, and I feel truly guilty and regretful.”
That’s not the end of it. Police authorities are now reviewing the couple’s assets and bank accounts.
Corruption has plagued China throughout its economic transformation over the past 40 years, with officials often putting ill-gotten assets in family members’ names.
But Xi Jinping has cracked down on corruption since becoming China’s leader in 2012, jailing more than 1 million officials for various forms or graft and prohibiting activities associated with palm-greasing, including golf.
Lyric Li contributed to this report.