Cross-dressing teenage guide arrested for illegal hiking trips in Taiwan

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TAIPEI, Taiwan - A teenage mountain guide who pretended to a woman has been arrested for organising illegal hiking trips to restricted mountainous areas, police said yesterday.

The 17-year-old uncertified mountain guide, surnamed Chang, was intercepted along with a group of nine hikers he was leading in a restricted area at the Shei-Pa National Park in central Taiwan on Thursday night, said the police.

The teenager assumed a false identity as a 21-year-old woman to solicit hikers on a website for his "Yue Ning Hiking Club," the police said.

Chang told police he liked "cosplay" and hiking, and would usually dress himself as a woman.

Police said Chang had used the false identity to guide hikers on more than a dozen trips he organised to Yushan, Taroko, Shei-Pa and other mountains in Taiwan, for which he had been earning more than NT$100,000 (S$4,300) monthly.

In the latest Shei-Pa trip, which was supposed to last from Sept. 10 to 15, the hikers each paid him NT$5,200 for the guiding service, plus meal and accommodation expenses.

The hikers are believed to have been unaware that their guide is actually an underage male, who was wearing long hair. The police described the hikers as being "shocked" by the revelation of his true identity.

Police said Chang resisted arrest by trying to bite the officers, who had to subdue him.

Chang has been booked on document forgery charges and his case has been referred to Taichung's juvenile court, police said.

Police said as the guide is underage, the hikers would not have been able to claim any damages had there been an accident or dispute.

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