Nineteen men have been detained by police in southwest China for impersonating monks and selling fake or shoddy goods, a local official and state media said Sunday.
Police in Wuhou, a district in the city of Chengdu, were tipped off by locals last week who said that 50 men with shaved heads and wearing monks robes were selling trinkets, a Web site for the Chengdu Business Daily said.
They claimed to be from the "Shaolin Temple Martial Arts Performing Troupe," the newspaper said.
"But they aren't monks, they are con artists," said a Wuhou police official who would give only his surname, Jing. He would not give any more details and said the newspaper's account was accurate.
When police officers arrived at one site, they saw 10 of the men attacking journalists from a local television station trying to film them, the paper said. Some 180 officers gave chase after the monks escaped in two vehicles and fired warning shots into the air after they intercepted the vehicles, it said.
An investigation shows that the gang was led by Wang Shengli and Zhang Gaofeng, from Henan province, who hired boys from local martial arts training schools to cheat ordinary citizens by selling fake goods, the paper said. It did not give any details on what the goods were or whether Wang and Zhang were detained.
The other 31 members of the group were under investigation, it said.