The 47-year-old, surnamed Li, was pictured on different sets of scaffolding around tall buildings after news of his arrest emerged, and mocking media nicknamed him “Brother Building-jumper”.
“Li would often make his suicide threats in busy public places or on open construction sites and demand cash from owners or his rescuers,” the state-run Global Times said Wednesday, citing police.
The former air conditioner installer has carried out the scam in more than seven provinces since 2011, the newspaper said, without giving a total number of fake suicide attempts.
Police in the central province of Jiangxi arrested him when he threatened to jump from the sixth floor of a building under construction over claims for unpaid back pay, it added.
“Officers took Li into custody after (they) lured him down with promises of 800 yuan,” the newspaper said.
Li, from the eastern province of Jiangsu, was said to have extorted 12,000 yuan in total.
Multiple news websites dubbed him “Brother Building-jumper”, and he was a popular topic on China’s message boards.
“Moral degeneracy is currently one of China’s special characteristics,” one netizen blasted on Sina Weibo, a Chinese version of Twitter.
“Let him jump!” said another.
Other posters were less scornful.
“He does have a knack for good business,” said one of Li’s defenders, while another claimed: “This kind of behaviour is an art form.” (AFP)