Conspiracy theories dog Chinese crime victim after revealing new family

A handout photo. Lin Shengbin (far right) lost his family in a fire at their flat in 2017.
PHOTO: The South China Morning Post

Police in eastern China are investigating a man for “disturbing public order” after widespread conspiracy theories forced them to reinvestigate and reject the claims surrounding one of the country’s most famous criminal cases from the past five years.

In 2017, Lin Shengbin was away on a business trip when Mo Huanjing, the domestic helper who worked for the family , started a fire hoping that she could put it out and curry favour with the family. She wanted to then ask for a loan to pay off her gambling debts .

A handout photo. Lin started Tong Zhen Yi Sheng, a children’s clothing business named after his late family (pictured).
PHOTO: South China Morning Post

The blaze got out of control and killed Lin’s wife and three children in 2017. Mo was sentenced to death for the crime in February 2018.

In the aftermath, Lin was the subject of national sympathy, but those sentiments turned to scorn after he revealed in June that he had started another family.

The rumours also started at around the same time that Lin revealed his new family.

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Some of the conspiracy theories claimed that Lin had inappropriate relations with Mo, was not on a business trip during the fire and that three firefighters that responded to the alarm were relatives of Lin and Mo.

People also spread a rumour that he had taken out a significant insurance policy on his family, implying that he organised the fire to claim the money.

In a statement released on Tuesday, the police said they had finished a “comprehensive and careful reinvestigation” of the case and had not found any evidence that Lin had “designed or implemented” the crime.

They also called on the public to not “fabricate, believe, or spread” rumours.

Mo Huanjing (centre) was sentenced to death in 2018 for her role in the fire.

Finally, the police announced that they are investigating a man from Jiaozhou, in Shandong province, which is 800km north of Hangzhou, for disturbing public order.

“Those who intentionally make or spread rumours will receive serious punishment from the police,” they said.

The police said they are still investigating claims Lin evaded taxes and was not honest about his philanthropy.

Lin’s disclosure that he had a new child was controversial because many people believed he had leveraged the tragedy to promote himself and his business.

He has millions of followers on social media and started Tong Zhen Yi Sheng, a children’s clothing business named after his late family members.

A handout photo. A photo shows the aftermath of the fire that ripped through Lin’s flat.
Photo: South China Morning Post

Some of his fans thought Lin starting a family betrayed his public image as a forlorn lover.

However, other people said it was time to give Lin a break, and that his decision to start a family was a private matter.

After the fire, Lin went on the offensive, suing nine organisations he believed were responsible for the tragedy, such as the property management company and fire emergency response team.

He sought 138 million yuan (S$29 million) in the lawsuits but signed a confidential settlement.

There were rumours that he had kept all of the money and had not given any to his late wife’s family, but Lin’s lawyer denied the speculation.

This article was first published in South China Morning Post.