After 13 years as a fugitive, former Chinese official Yang Xiuzhu was sentenced on Oct. 13 to eight years in prison and a fine of 800,000 yuan (about $121,400 USD). Her assets, worth more than 26 million yuan (about $4 million USD), were also seized.
According to the Chinese court, from 1996 to 1999 while acting as deputy mayor of Wenzhou City (located on the southeastern coast) and deputy head of the Zhejiang Province construction bureau, she embezzled more than 19 million yuan and accepted more than 7 million in bribes.
Yang topped China’s list of most wanted fugitives when Interpol issued a red notice for her in 2015. She was considered the country’s foremost female corrupt official.
Yang fled abroad in 2003, moving from Hong Kong to Singapore, later to Europe. She sought asylum in France and Holland, but her application was rejected. In 2014, she fled to the United States. In November 2016, she was repatriated back to China. The Chinese authorities stated that she had surrendered and returned to the country voluntarily.
Yang’s sentencing signals to other corrupt officials abroad what fate they could face—though it should be noted that Chinese state media said Yang was given a lighter sentence because she pleaded guilty and expressed regret for her actions.
Chinese media previously quoted a former Wenzhou official detailing how Yang accumulated her power and wealth. She sought allies among officials at every level, from the provincial level to the police. With party cadres as her supporters, Yang placed her aides and relatives in high-level positions at local companies, who helped her rake up money.
Hong Kong media also reported that Yang was an associate of Zhang Dejiang while Zhang was the party chief of Zhejiang Province between 1998 and 2002. Yang also held a position in the provincial office at the time.
Zhang later became a top official within the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), rising up to the Politburo Standing Committee, due in large part to the political patronage of former CCP leader Jiang Zemin. Jiang and his faction within the Party is in a power struggle with current CCP leader Xi Jinping and his supporters.
Reuters and Gu Qing’er contributed to this report.