At Inside Out China, Xujun Eberlein translates an anonymous friend’s account of trying to rectify a new apartment’s illegally modified electricity meter:
Two years ago, I bought a tiny flat from a stranger. While making some minor changes to the old interior, the electrician I hired found problematic wires, and that the electricity meter outside did not work. The electrician, who had more than 20 years of experience, concluded that the previous owner had messed about with the meter in order to steal electricity. He pointed to a jumble of wires and tried to explain – why this wire did not connect to the meter and that wire did not connect to ground – only to make me further confused. Finally I got the gist of what he was saying: the previous owner installed a very small switch inside the apartment, and reconnected the meter to the switch, which fully controlled the meter’s readings. As the result, if he had used 100 kwh of electricity, the meter would only read 10 kwh ….
Manager Zhou looked at me sympathetically: “You really don’t need to care, let it be. It’s not just one or two households stealing electricity. To tell you the truth, the house I rent now has the same situation. In our building 60% of apartment owners do this.”
I was speechless for a while. Then I said, “No way! Thieves are in the open, and a moral person must sneak around, this is turning things upside down! I don’t care what others do, I must correct the meter ….”