Former Chinese Politburo Standing Committee member Li Changchun’s family has continuously been in the Chinese media recently. This may well be a signal that the former propaganda chief is in line for a corruption probe.
Top-level Chinese Communist Party officials and their families are an untouchable elite. Publicizing or commenting on their wealth and business dealings is a big taboo—until political winds change. A recent spate of articles about Li Changchun’s family suggests he may now be targeted by the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection for investigation.
If so, he would be classified as “tiger”—a very high-ranking official. Li became a member of the Politburo in 1997. In 1998, as a confidante of Jiang Zemin, Li was sent to govern Guangdong Province, controlling local factions for Jiang. He also enthusiastically enforced the persecution of the spiritual discipline of Falun Gong there.
Party head Jiang Zemin had launched a campaign to eradicate Falun Gong out of fear of the popularity of Falun Gong and the attractiveness of its traditional moral teachings to the Chinese people.
In 2002 at the 16th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, Li entered the Politburo Standing Committee, the elite body whose collective leadership ran the CCP. Li was put in charge of propaganda and ideology.
As propaganda chief, Li worked closely with the Political and Legal Affairs Committee headed by Zhou Yongkang in persecuting Falun Gong. Li used his power over China’s media to try to create an atmosphere of hate around Falun Gong practitioners.
Li Changchun is one of handful of regime officials who have been sued in Western courts for their roles in the persecution.
Li also spent a lot of money to spread Communist Party propaganda overseas, seeking to establish China’s soft power and to counter universal values—the principles of human rights and democracy. He aimed to influence and seize public opinion in Chinese communities overseas and defeat independent, Chinese-language media outlets, replacing their uncensored reports with Chinese Communist Party culture.
Li Changchun is notorious for his role in censoring Google in China.
According to the founding president of Google China, Kaifu Lee, Li once discovered that Google’s global website was not censored. When he entered his name, he found a lot of denigrating information about himself.
Li was furious and decided to mark Google as an illegal website. He asked the Ministry of Finance, the Propaganda Department, and the Ministry of Education to write a report on Google, to demand that Google stop its “illegal activities,” and block google.com.
While Li was Communist Party secretary of Henan Province, an AIDS epidemic caused by blood transfusions broke out.
Under the guidance of government policy, over 1.4 million people in Henan, mostly farmers, joined the movement to get rich by selling their blood. They could get 50 yuan (US$8.21) each time they donated blood.
There were over 1 million HIV infections and tens of thousands of deaths. Li Changchun and other officials in charge covered up and blocked the information from being made public.
This article first appeared in China Gaze.
Translated by Lu Chen. Written in English by Gisela Sommer.