The story of the recent purge of a minor official in China, who became infamous after a sex video in which he was involved surfaced online, has shed light on the usually secret machinations of minor Party officials and shady developers, and shows how corrupt cadres are punished when the political winds shift.
Lei Zhengfu, former Party secretary of the Beibei District of Chongqing, a municipality in the southwest, was by all accounts a bit player in Chinese politics. He was sacked on Nov. 23 after a sexually explicit video with him in it emerged online.
The move appears to be part of a house-cleaning operation by the new Party boss in town, ridding the city of some of the remnants of the era when Bo Xilai and his deputy Wang Lijun effectively ran Chongqing through a combination of heavy-handed neo-Maoist propaganda and brute force. Bo Xilai is a former member of the Politburo who is now in custody, and whose wife was sentenced to prison earlier this year for the murder of a Briton.
The video featuring Lei Zhengfu was published on Nov. 20—the day that new Chongqing Party Secretary Sun Zhengcai assumed office. Lei became infamous overnight on the Chinese Internet. He was soon put under shuanggui, a Soviet-era form of detention and interrogation reserved for Party members who “violate discipline.”
Zhu Ruifeng, moderator of People’s Supervision Network, the website that published the video, told the New York-based NTD Television that he got the tape from police inside the Chongqing Public Security Bureau. He said he received six videos, and that the officials involved in them are all at the director or deputy director level. Four of them are still in office.
Lei had been caught in a classic ploy of entrapment, regularly used by Chinese communist officials and their associates against one another: according to journalist Ji Xuguang, a businessman had presented his 18-year-old mistress for Lei’s pleasure in a Chongqing hotel, as a bribe for favorable regulatory decisions. The young female involved in the encounter secretly recorded it.
Before he was secretary of Beibei District, Lei was the Party chief in Dianjiang County, also in Chonqging. He saw to it that all construction projects in the county were overseen and approved by his brother, Lei Zhengkui. Some builders didn’t like this, among them the boss of the young woman who was offered to Lei.
This boss, one of the largest local builders, in 2006 trained up a number of good-looking young women to sexually bribe officials, while also secretly videotaping the episodes. He figured that after the bribe, the videos could be used for blackmail.
When business began drying up for the builder in 2009, according to Apple Daily, he brought out the video and threatened Lei with it.
But rather than be pushed around, Lei struck back: he turned himself over to Bo Xilai, the Party chief of Chongqing and effectively “The Don” of the city. Bo appointed his deputy Wang Lijun to look into the matter.
Wang set up an investigative team, of sorts, that concluded that the builder who tried to blackmail Lei was guilty. The builder was locked in prison for one year and his female companion was placed under criminal detention for a month. For kissing Bo’s ring, Lei not only was not punished but also promoted. Other officials ensnared in compromising acts with young women by the builder also continued in their positions.
Zhu, the website moderator, told Oriental Morning Post that Lei accumulated vast sums of money through helping his relatives take over projects. But “Compared with money, [he] likes beautiful women more,” Zhu said. Those that wanted a project greenlighted continued to send him women.
Some Chinese netizens questioned why Lei was not punished by Bo Xilai three years ago, but many were not surprised.
During Bo and Wang’s reign over Chongqing a vast campaign called Smashing the Black was conducted: criminals and businessmen were labeled as belonging to the Mafia and had their assets seized. Thousands were arrested and dozens executed in the campaign. It is impossible to know, but estimates indicate that 100 billion yuan ($16 billion) may have been confiscated, the majority of it failing to enter the Treasury.
After the political destruction of Bo and Wang there have been clamors to have some of the cases re-examined, as well as a wish to punish some officials who were loyal to Bo Xilai, of whom Lei Zhengfu was one.
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