Chen Xuefeng, who was a former coal and electricity boss in Henan before rising to sit on the province’s Party Standing Committee and serving as Party Secretary of the city of Luoyang, was purged on Jan. 16, according to Party investigators.
The investigation into Chen appeared to have been kept under tight wraps by the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, given that both the day before and the day of his purge, Chen was being reported positively in local media. On the very day of his removal, for instance, he appeared on the front page of the Luoyang Daily, with a report about his attendance at a meeting of the Luoyang Party Standing Committee.
“Poverty alleviation and development is a mission that we must take upon ourselves to shoulder,” he is quoted saying in the report.
The report of his dismissal said it was due to “severe violations of discipline.” No further information was provided. The phrase usually refers to corruption of one kind or another, though is just as often used as a pretext to remove political rivals.
Before his high-powered positions in the Henan provincial Party apparatus and in Luoyang, Chen was the general manager, chairman, and Party Secretary of the Yongcheng Coal and Electricity Group for eight years, beginning in 2000.
Caixin, a Chinese business publication with connections to the Party leadership, reported rumors that Chen was slated for investigation in 2014 amidst the broader purge of corrupt actors in the coal industry. He appears to have escaped that round of investigations, however, which won a series of high-ranking scalps, including Ling Wancheng, the brother of Ling Jihua, director of the Party’s General Office.
Chen came up from humble origins. Born in a small village in Henan, he was raised by his father and neighbors after his mother passed away when he was aged two. He began as a coal washer, and clambered up through the Party system over 30 years.
It is likely that he needed to grease many a palm along the way. In 2012, a year after Chen was promoted to deputy governor (and deputy Party Secretary) of Henan Province, one of his subordinates, Hao Linjie, was criminally detained and sentenced to 16 years and 6 months imprisonment for accepting bribes of nearly $151,000.
A number of Chinese media articles, in reporting the purge of Chen, added a note of unexpected sympathy. Caixin, for instance, reported that the Yongcheng Coal and Electricity Group saw a dramatic turnaround under Chen’s competent stewardship. It went from being heavily indebted and facing bankruptcy to becoming the most profitable enterprise in the province. The report said that Luo was a “man of action,” kept a low profile, and “contributed a lot to the economy of Luoyang,” citing sources.
Of course, in the opaque world of Chinese politics, it is unclear what measures Chen took to win these achievements.