A 22-year-old man sought refuge on a train in southern China after he claimed he had been brainwashed and held captive by members of an illegal pyramid scheme, a Chinese news site reported on the weekend.
Passengers and railway police on the train from Nanning in Guangxi were alerted to Ma Jiansheng’s plight early Friday morning when he became involved in an argument with a woman claiming to be his husband, Bandao.cn reported.
Ma appealed for help, shouting: “Help, conductor I don’t know her. We are not husband and wife.”
He said a friend lured him to a residential building in Nanning on March 4 and brainwashed him into joining what was described as an investment scheme, according to the report.
Ma said he soon realised it was a pyramid scheme but was threatened and held captive by the group.
He seized a chance to escape on Thursday and fled to the railway station, boarding a service for Qingdao in eastern Shandong province.
A woman from the group followed Ma and also got on the train, leading to the argument.
A railway police officer cautioned the woman but allowed her to go because of lack of evidence, the report said.
Despite being illegal, pyramid schemes are widespread in China, targeting people from smaller inland centres with few economic opportunities.
Low-income groups of “migrant workers, laid-off workers and fresh graduates” were also often easy victims, the report said.