The Hongcheng Magic Liquid incident
was a scam in China where Wang Hongcheng (Chinese: 王洪成
; pinyin: Wáng Hóngchéng
), a bus driver from Harbin with no scientific education, claimed in 1983 that he could turn regular water into a fuel as flammable
as petrol by simply dissolving a few drops of his liquid in it. He founded the Hongcheng Magic Liquid company with funds from Chinese governmental agencies and other supporters, raising a total of 300 million yuan (US$37 million), but no product was ever released.
Around that time, in 1994, the Chinese Government, alarmed by an increase in pseudoscience and superstitions since the death of Mao Zedong, made a declaration decrying the deterioration
of science education in the country, taking several measures to improve science education and to improve the prevalence of science and technology in courts. One of these efforts was to require the scientific authoritative journal Science and Technology Daily
to carry an article critical of Hongcheng's invention
, which had been previously rejected at several major Chinese publications. This created a growing publicity
and opposition of Hongcheng's invention, silencing his supporters.
In 1995 Hongcheng refused an invitation
to carry a scientific appraisal
of his invention at Beijing, and the notable scientist and debunker He Zuoxiu and 40 other scientists made a statement calling for the Chinese Government to investigate his claims. Hongcheng was eventually arrested, put to trial, and in 1998, was found guilty
of fraud and deceit
and condemned to 10 years of prison.