On May 31, courts across China separately found six disgraced high-ranking Chinese officials guilty of corruption and issued sentences.
All six officials are either associated with, or are part of, the political faction overseen by former Chinese Communist Party boss Jiang Zemin.
Three of the officials—former statistics bureau chief Wang Baoan, former Luoyang City head Chen Xuefeng, and former Ningbo City mayor Lu Ziyue—had accepted bribes totaling hundreds of millions of yuan (about tens of millions in dollars) in value, and were sentenced to life imprisonment.
The other three—former China Telecom chairman Chang Xiaobing, ex-Sichuan City vice governor Li Chengyun, and Wuhan Iron and Steel ex-chairman Deng Qilin—were to serve 6, 10, and 15 years respectively for taking bribes ranging from millions to tens of millions of yuan.
Chang Xiaobing is perhaps the most prominent of the six. He once helmed China Telecom and China Unicom, two of China’s largest state-owned telecommunications companies. China Unicom is widely believed to have long been in the hands of Jiang Mianheng, the elder son of Jiang Zemin.
Chang is known to be close to Jiang’s confidants, and is also believed to be a top aide to Jiang Mianheng. When Chang was being investigated in 2015, several mainland Chinese news sites reported Chang’s sale of a 1.2 billion yuan (about $176 million) state-owned office building to disgraced military vice chairman Guo Boxiong for a third of its market value. Guo’s political patron is Jiang Zemin.
The Baoding Intermediate People’s Court in the northern province of Hebei which sentenced Chang reduced his punishment because he had disclosed the crimes of others to the authorities, according to state media. Chang was fined 500,000 yuan fine ($73,000) and made to serve a 6-year jail term.
While not mentioned in Chinese state reports, some of the officials who were prosecuted on May 31 were also found to be involved in Jiang Zemin’s persecution campaign against the traditional Chinese spiritual discipline Falun Gong.
Feeling threatened by Falun Gong’s popularity (there were 70 million to 100 million practitioners in 1999, according to practitioner and official estimates), Jiang ordered the practice suppressed in July 1999. Jiang then encouraged Chinese officials to actively participate in the persecution by promising them power and wealth.
Chen Xuefeng, the former Party secretary of Luoyang City in Henan Province, is one notable example of an official who appears to have been rewarded for adhering to Jiang’s persecution policy.
Chen is a longtime associate of Li Changchun. Li, a top ally of Jiang Zemin, is a former Politburo Standing Committee member who was once Party chief of Henan Province.
Chen, who once helmed local state-owned energy companies, was made Henan vice governor in January 2011. Two years later, he was promoted to Luoyang chief. The severity of the persecution of Falun Gong in Luoyang City appeared to coincide with Chen’s tenure in the city’s top office from mid-2013 to 2016, according to Minghui.org, a clearinghouse for firsthand information about the persecution.
Chen was investigated for corruption in January 2016. On May 31, 2017, the Intermediate People’s Court of Jingzhou City in central China found Chen guilty of taking bribes exceeding 125 million yuan (about $18 million) between 2000 and 2015, as well as causing 224 million yuan in national losses with his “arbitrary disposal of state assets.” The court sentenced Chen to life in prison.