A Perfectly Harmless Death Threat
by Henrietta Wang
A gang of bank robbers was let off the hook earlier this month when it was revealed that the ringleader's threat to shoot dead anyone who failed to cooperate was merely "expressing his personal views."
"If you try to press the alarm button," the masked bandido told the teller [what? - ed.], "we will be forced to start using our guns and then a lot of people are going to wake up dead tomorrow."
The gang leader, identified only as "Mr Li", made the threats shortly after he and seven other armed men burst into a branch of the Agricultural Bank in western Beijing. He went on to address the security staff specifically.
"We robbers will prepare ourselves for the death of all three of the gang standing to the east of the potted plant," he said to an armed guard who approached. "Of course, the bank staff will have to be prepared for us then shooting everyone in here until they are dead."
Police acknowledged that a robbery had not actually been the plan of the men, who had merely wished to "pay their phone bill or something". They were pleased to let the matter drop after another gang member explained that Mr Li's "irresponsible remarks" had not been representative of the group.
"We will firmly abide by the principles of peaceful acquisition and we will exert the greatest efforts to conduct peaceful robberies," said a spokesman for the gang.
The spokesrobber went to on to express dismay at some public perceptions of the gang. "I don't see why everyone complains about us buying lots of guns and pointing them at people - we have never attacked anyone with them who wasn't asking for it. Besides, what business is it of anyone's to interfere in the internal affairs of our gang?"
Some analysts suggest that the comments were not entirely unauthorised but a way of letting the gang show off a bit and "let off some steam". Despite being a gang of armed robbers who should, in theory, have a tough-as-nails reputation, they have yet to get involved in a fight without being seriously beaten ever since they first formed decades ago.
The gang has also been involved in a long-standing but so far non-physical feud with former ally "Tiny Gao", a midget who ran out on them with a sizable amount of cash (the proceeds of a scam targetting the elderly) some years ago.