A report on Vocativ reports on rumors on Chinese social media and Taiwanese newspapers that the rich and powerful hire "body doubles" to go on trial for them and even serve their prison sentences. High-profile Chinese trials, like those of Gu Kalai (the wife of Bo Xilai, convicted of murdering Neil Heywood), and Hu Bin (the son of an important official who killed a man in a hit-and-run, using a Mitsubishi custom sports car) have attracted speculation about the use of ti-shen, poor people hired to stand in for the rich perps. When they appeared in court, their appearances were arguably different from their earlier media photos.
I could not find any other sources reporting on this story, apart from this Chinese message-board linked in the Vocativ article. Given that it plays into the widespread perception of Chinese corruption and oligarchy, I'm on the fence about it. If you have more information, I'd love to hear it through the comments.
“The ‘Gu Kailai’ in the photo has a nose that is clearly more meaty,” a member with the screen name Red Sheer wrote (in Chinese). “The Gu Kailai previously photographed with Bo Xilai definitely has a sharp nose. A few months on house arrest, no matter how good a life she’s living, even if she was fed exotic delicacies, swallow’s nest and shark fin, she wouldn’t have meat growing on the tip of her nose.”
One Chinese social media user even claimed to identify Gu’s body double as “46-year-old Langfang resident Zhao Tianyun”—but that name was promptly blocked from Chinese search engines.
While the press in Mainland China is heavily controlled, allegations of ding zui did make it into print in Taiwan. The newspaper Want China Times quoted Bo Xilai’s adopted sister, Yu Shuqin, saying the woman in court was not the real Gu Kailai. “It doesn’t matter how fat a woman becomes, the shape of her ears will never change,” she told the paper.
Body doubles in China: Will Bo Xilai serve his sentence? [Hannah Miet/Vocativ]