A college freshman was detained in Jiangsu Province along with two friends after they reportedly faked his kidnapping and demanded ransom to "test his father's love."
The 18-year-old surnamed Zhu, from Northwest China's Shaanxi Province, traveled to Taizhou in search of part-time work over the summer holiday.
According to police, Zhu's family began receiving threatening images over WeChat on July 13 showing the 18-year-old tied up and gagged.
A second WeChat message followed with video of Zhu being beaten in a field.
Zhu's supposed kidnappers demanded a ransom of 100,000 yuan ($14,883) to be paid within the hour, the Jiangsu TV reported on Monday.
Zhu's family contacted Taizhou police. Officers there traced the videos to a hotel and waited for the men to return.
Unexpectedly, it was Zhu who returned to the hotel, alone and unharmed.
Zhu told police he had always doubted his father's feelings for him and planned the fake kidnapping so his father could "prove his love," the report read.
Zhu and his accomplices were detained on suspicion of blackmail and extortion.