SHANGHAI — Chinese censors recently delayed the release of "Mission: Impossible III" because they didn't want to air the city's dirty laundry.
But the sharp-eyed film police apparently missed a more obvious smear, a crude advertisement for one of China's most notorious businesses: producing fake documents.
Now, Internet mavens across the Middle Kingdom are tsk-tsking at the censors' bumble. Some have clipped the fleeting scene from a pirated download of the movie -- which won't be released in China until next month -- and posted it on the Web, generating guffaws in chat rooms.
That's painful for Shanghai officials, who go to great lengths to burnish the city's image. The eastern metropolis boasts of being home to the world's fastest train and is building the tallest office tower and 100 museums, even if many of them will remain empty.
So it came as no surprise when censors held up the Tom Cruise thriller, which was partly filmed in Shanghai, to snip a high-speed car chase because censors didn't want the Chinese people to see mayhem in the streets.
But near the end of the flick, Cruise runs along a river bend, cellphone in hand. He glides past a white wall emblazoned with an 11-digit mobile phone number and Chinese characters below it: \o7ban zheng\f7, colloquial for "Make fake documents."
Such "businesses" produce false licenses, certificates and IDs and are as ubiquitous in Shanghai as laundry hanging outside apartment windows.
"If you're filming in the streets of China, it'd be fake if you didn't see such business ads," read a posting from Hubei province.
"Mr. Ba," owner of the infamous mobile phone number, says he has been bombarded by thousands of calls from curious people and Internet sleuths, who have pinpointed the number to nearby Jiangsu province. But not too many are placing orders for fake documents with Ba, who seemed desperate for fewer prank calls and some real business.
"I've received many strange calls from people who just chuckle and don't say anything and then hang up," Ba said. "Some people called and asked to buy my number."
He then added: "I can give you a discount."