back to article Chinese sleazeball's 17-year game of hide-and-seek ends after drone finds him on mountain

Chinese cops have found a use case for drones that doesn't involve shutting airports, arming them with an assortment of lethal weapons or generally being a nuisance. Convicted people trafficker Song Jiang, 63, escaped a prison camp in March 2002, regional police reported on their WeChat page. He was able to elude authorities …

  1. Alister

    What's this, a "Drones are good" story?

    Drones are EEEEEEVILL and don't you forget it!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Hunting can be a noble sport or an act of extreme cruelty. It all depends on which end of the gun barrel you're sitting.

    2. Charles 9

      More like "Drones Are Useful." This is a two-edged utility. This was done in a politically-motivated manhunt, but a most-wanted fugitive manhunt...or a search-and-rescue operation?

    3. Mark 85

      It was just an innocent tool in this case. IF it had been armed, as governments everywhere seem to be doing, then evil applies to the users of the drone.

  2. NoneSuch Silver badge


    Drone Discovers Decamped Dirty Derelict

  3. JohnG

    Life in that prison camp must be pretty grim if he preferred living unwashed in a 2m cave for 17 years.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I agree but

      What bugs me about this is that in cases like this where a fugitive gets re-captured after 10+ years is that most of them will have spent all of their post-escape life living well within the law*, even avoiding speeding tickets. Isn't this the ultimate goal of the criminal justice system? To be able to return reformed criminals to society?

      * - save for paying taxes under an assumed name...

      1. iron Silver badge

        Re: I agree but

        "living well within the law"

        Except for the fact that they are an escaped criminal who hasn't turned themself in. Pretty major crime that.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I agree but

          "Except for the fact that they are an escaped criminal who hasn't turned themself in. Pretty major crime that."

          That would depend on your viewpoint or location. In a lot of the world it is not a crime to escape prison (Mexico, Netherlands, Germany, etc). It is natural human instinct to escape being incarcerated, so you can't punish someone for that. You can make them serve the rest of their sentence when you find them of course.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I agree but

          Doctor of Tautology here.

    2. macjules

      Oh I don't know. It seemed to work ok for Julian Assange.

      [cave => broom cupboard, 17 years => 7 years]

    3. Nick Kew

      @JohnG - Defying TPTB may trump all personal comforts. C.f. Assange's time in an embassy compared to the prospect of a Swedish prison.

      There are fine stories of historic fugitives living long-term off-grid. Some of them the stuff of legend, like Elijah or Bin Laden smiting the unbelievers.

  4. Craig 2

    I saw the drone pic of his cave and his major error was a bright blue plastic rain shelter above the cave entrance. Stuck out like a sore thumb from above. If he'd used even a bit of camouflage it would have been much harder to spot.

    1. Charles 9

      But being a fugitive he may have been strapped for resources and took what he could get, gambling that no one would be audacious enough to search that area by helicopter.

    2. Stratman

      Being incommunicado for seventeen years he was probably unaware drones even existed, and wouldn't have seen the need to foil them.

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        I'm sure he didn't think about having to worry about an aerial scan for him, but I doubt he was completely disconnected from all people for seventeen years. For one thing, they didn't specify how he was getting food. It is theoretically possible that he hunted for it and that's it, but given the difficulty in doing this in an area near a large Chinese city and maintaining sufficient nutrition to stay healthy, it's probable that he had another mechanism such as entering a nearby location to purchase or steal food. So he could probably have learned of the existence of drones. If he had thought police would have used them to find him, he could have disguised his location or simply moved to another place, as the police could only find him after having a good enough idea that he was to be found in the mountains there. And that's another point that makes it less likely that he never saw a person for that time, as the police had to learn this possibility from somebody.

        1. hj

          I read somewhere else the police had trouble understanding him since hardly could speak Chinese anymore.

  5. intrigid

    This is the Chinese government we're talking about

    Why does everyone automatically assume the prosecution of this man was legitimate? China has a well documented history of railroading people into being convicted of certain crimes on little to no evidence, when the actual crime they committed was mild to moderate dissidence against the government.

    The fact that they went to these lengths to find this individual makes it seem more likely, not less likely, that this was the case.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: This is the Chinese government we're talking about

      Your reasoning is flawed. The fact that US prosecutors go to such lengths to get their hand on Julian Assange says a lot when his only crime was to moderately embarrass the US administration.

      Stop assuming US good, China bad.

      1. intrigid

        Re: This is the Chinese government we're talking about

        Both are bad. Your argument supports mine, not contradicts it. If we already know that the US engages in political imprisonment, and we already know that China has a far worse track record on human rights than the US, then that's all the more reason we should be skeptical of this entire story.

    2. Crazy Operations Guy

      Re: This is the Chinese government we're talking about

      About to comment a similar thing. If he was "trafficking" women and children 20 years ago, that would put him smack-dab in the middle of the anti-separatist crackdowns in Tibet following Tienanmen Square. It is is possible that he was smuggling the wives and children of separatists leaders out of China and to safety in neighboring countries.

      It is equally possible that he was selling women and children into slavery.

      The business of "Moving people across borders without notice by one or more governments" is one of those businesses that can be extremely moral or immoral, but very rarely be anywhere in the middle. And even then, which extreme of morality it is can vary wildly based on who you ask, but again, you are either a savior or a piece of scum. And given China's spotty record, he could be either.

      And like the OP, I hold the US to same scrutiny, and any other nation that has had difficulty following even their own rules surrounding the carriage of justice.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: This is the Chinese government we're talking about

      trouble is, we will never really know the true story, to make our own decisions about who's right and wrong here. His original sentence might have been for the genuine crime, hyped-up or completely made up by Chinese authorities. It was passed on to the media either because of curiosity factor (nothing serious happening today, oh look, we've got this guy in a cave), or as a not-so-subtle warning from the Chinese authorities (you won't hide). We will never really find out which one is true.

      And the beeb, in their true fashion of "reliable news outlet", took every effort to verify that this is not a hoax, that the man was really sentenced, etc. etc. They did, didn't they? Surely, they didn't just translate an account from local Chinese media, right?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: This is the Chinese government we're talking about

        And a contrived story to play up the value of using drones to hunt people, to boot.

  6. lglethal Silver badge

    I cant understand the mentality...

    OK without knowing his actual sentence (maybe it was a life sentence, or maybe it was "only" 10 years), but he's effectively sentenced himself to 17 years of self imposed jail under far more stringent conditions than in the prison camp. 2m² cave, no electricity, no heating, no running water, cast off's for everything, and living in constant fear of being caught again. Prison will probably feel like a vactaion resort after that!

    Now assuming, he didnt actually have a sentence that was life without parole, then he's basically added 17 years of jail to his previous sentence plus whatever they add on for escaping the first place. Probably would have been out by now already, but he wont be for along, long time now...

    1. druck Silver badge

      Re: I cant understand the mentality...

      You've got a very funny idea of what a vacation is.

      1. Toltec

        Re: I cant understand the mentality...

        I suspect he went to Pontins as a child.

    2. intrigid

      Re: I cant understand the mentality...

      You seem to be overlooking the fact that this story took place in CHINA

  7. NotBob
    Big Brother

    Sent this guy back to prison for torture (by their own admission) and then shot a protester with live ammo. Those Chinese folks sure know how to party!

    1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

      Those Chinese folks sure know how to [ONE] party!

  8. Winkypop Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    Chinese take away

    I still think 17 years on a cramped cold ledge is preferrable to a Chinese jail.

  9. sbt
    Black Helicopters


    They didn't have to wait for drones to be available. Helicopters (see icon ->>) were invented decades ago.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Dirty, unwashed, lived in a cave for 17 years?

    Which Linux distro did he write?

  11. Nifty Silver badge

    Hunted. Life imitates art.

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