Four young men were convicted of and sentenced for theft of virtual facilities and coins of online games, according to sources with a local court in Shenyang, capital of northeast China's Liaoning Province.
Wang Xiaoquan received three years' imprisonment and his three accomplices received reprieved sentences, each of the four was fined 5,000 yuan (about 735.3 U.S. dollars), according to a verdict statement of the People's Court of Dongling District on Saturday.
Wang started to play online games in an Internet bar in 2008.
"He was often "bullied" when playing games because of simple virtual facilities," said the statement.
Wang then found that a netizen named "Shenyang fellow" was rich in virtual property, and he was in the same bar and won most games he had played.
Wang then asked for virtual properties from "Shenyang fellow", but was declined, which triggered the idea of "robbery".
On Oct. 22, 2008, Wang and his three friends beat, coerced and forced "Shenyang fellow" to transfer to 100,000 yuan worth of QQ coins, a kind of virtual money, and a large amount of virtual facilities to Wang
The four people divided all the virtual property. Wang also robbed 200 yuan from "Shenyang fellow".
The four gave themselves up to the police after they heard that "Shenyang fellow" went to the police.
The court held that although no law has acknowledged legitimacy of the virtual property, game players have paid time and real money to accumulate their virtual property, which should be protected by the law.
``QQ coins'' are the most popular virtual money in China, issued by the Web site Tencent.com, which has 220 million registered users.