Fiction vs Reality: A Chinese Novelist Who Wanted to Write about His Crimes Arrested


Vanessa Obioha

Arguably, there is an element of truth in every work of fiction irrespective of its genre. But how does the reader identify these truths? The recent arrest of a Chinese novelist Liu Yongbiao brings this question to the fore.

An acclaimed writer of detective novels, Yongbiao was arrested of four murders he committed 22 years ago. The New York Times, citing sources said the novelist was arrested in his home in Nanling County in the eastern province of Anhui.

Interestingly, the 53-year-old man was not surprised by the arrival of the police. In fact, he was quoted as saying that he’s been waiting for them.
Yongbiao has never denied his penchant for suspense detective novels. His plot he said will revolve round alluring villains who deftly manoeuvre the cops. This knack for writing crime fiction he said spawned from reading other crime and detective books.

However, the desire didn’t end with just creating dodgy characters that commit crimes. He actually committed the crimes which he planned to detail in his next work of fiction. He hinted this in the preface of his 2010 novel ‘The Guilty Secret’. His working title he revealed for his new project which he hoped to adapt to the screen was ‘The Beautiful Writer Who Killed’. He went on to write about the plot of this story which involved an alluring female writer who dodges arrest despite committing a string of murders.

In reality, Yongbiao and his accomplice Wang checked into a hostel in Huzhou, in neighbouring Zhejiang Province, on a November night in 1995, with the intention to rob other guests. Their plan went awry when one of the guest surnamed Yu caught them stealing.

Yongbiao and Wang were said to have killed the guest, then beat to death the couple that ran the hostel as well as their 13-year-old grandson to cover up their crimes.

For two decades, the police in Anhui opened an investigation into the killings, but the trail soon went cold until June when the case was reopened. One of the local investigators, Xu Zhicheng said that their biggest challenge was the suspects and the victims had no previous relationship. “It was very difficult for us to follow the vine to find the melon.”

With the aid of a new DNA technology, the police were able to link the murders to Yongbiao and Wang.
Yongbiao confessed that he’s been having trouble sleeping since he committed the crimes and now at rest. Prior to his arrest, he had written a page letter of confession to give to his wife.