Ninety days after being demoted this April to serve on a special committee of the Chinese national legislature, former Gansu Province Communist Party secretary Wang Sanyun has been placed under investigation for the generic charge of violating disciplinary ordinances.
Wang has been replaced by Lin Duo. Lin worked under Wang Qishan, the head of the anti-corruption agency, as the district chief and district committee secretary when Wang Qishan was the mayor of Beijing. Lin was promoted to head the provincial disciplinary committee of Liaoning after Wang took charge of China’s top anti-graft watchdog.
The investigation makes Wang Sanyun the 15th member of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Central Committee to have been purged in Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s four-year-old anti-corruption campaign.
Wang’s removal from his post as provincial secretary occurred concurrently with the fall of provincial secretaries from Hainan, Shandong and Heilongjiang—Luo Baoming, Jiang Yikang, and Wang Xiankui, respectively.
Wang’s purging comes ahead of the 19th National Congress of the CCP that will be held this autumn. Xi Jinping came to power following the 18th Congress in 2012, and this year’s leadership meeting presents an opportunity for him to further consolidate power through the personnel reshuffling.
For about a year, Gansu Province has seen many of its top Party officials sacked in the anti-corruption campaign, which primarily targets figures associated with the political cliques of former CCP leader Jiang Zemin.
Ties With Ling Jihua
Wang’s political career took him across five provinces and landed him in the good graces of Ling Jihua, an influential CCP cadre in the 2000s who served as a top aide to former Party head Hu Jintao. Ling was placed under investigation in late 2014 and sentenced to life in prison on corruption charges in 2016.
Ling derived much of his clout from his leadership roles in the Communist Youth League, one of the CCP’s affiliated organizations. In 1990, Wang Sanyun held a provincial-level leadership position in the Youth League, at a time when Ling was deputy director of the organization’s General Office. In 2007, Ling Jihua helped Wang settle corruption charges levied against him, and Wang was soon promoted to become CCP secretary of Anhui Province.
The purge of Ling Jihua in 2014 came at a time when the Xi Jinping administration was taking down other key rivals in the Chinese regime, such as Zhou Yongkang of the security forces and Xu Caihou of the People’s Liberation Army. These officials were all connected to Jiang Zemin, who retired in the early 2000s but continues to wield political influence from behind the scenes.
Ling Jihua was an ally of Zhou Yongkang, who in turn was heavily promoted by Jiang Zemin. Zhou was sentenced to life in prison in 2015. In a 2016 speech, Xi Jinping accused Ling, Zhou, and a disgraced Politburo member, Bo Xilai, for “carrying out political conspiracies to wreck and split the party.”
Several other officials associated with the Jiang faction were purged during the latest wave of anti-graft campaign in February. As many as 75 provincial level officials and nearly 900 lower-level officials in Gansu have come under investigation since the 18th Party Congress.
Some of the accused committed suicide by jumping into rivers and off buildings. These include Yu Jingdong, the former head of the Lanzhou Political Consultative Conference, who threw himself in a river this April; Zhang Jixun, ex-vice director of the local land and resources bureau, and Zhou Qiang, former director of provincial development and reform committee. The three officials in Lanzhou, which is the capital of Gansu, were involved with corruption cases in the real estate sector.
Persecution and Poverty
Just a few months before his investigation, Wang had named the local officials recently purged for corruption and expressed resolve to “catch up with the anti-corruption battle in the country.”
Wang had been to Wushan County of Gansu Province on multiple inspection tours between 2011 and 2015, the Beijing News reported. He famously told a 10-year old girl that he was a “service worker” and would readily help if she wrote to him for any difficulties her family encountered.
Wushan remains one of the most impoverished counties in China.
Wang Sanyun was an active participant in the CCP’s persecution of the Falun Gong spiritual practice. Falun Gong, a meditative discipline that teaches truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance, was banned in 1999 on Jiang Zemin’s personal directive.
In the 2000s, many officials were promoted or awarded based on their performance in the anti-Falun Gong campaign. Today, a large number of those same officials are the targets of corruption cases in Xi Jinping’s purges, reflecting the factional struggle between him and those associated with Jiang.
In 2002, while working in Sichuan Province of southwestern China, Wang Sanyun ordered a province-wide campaign to “thoroughly track down and arrest” Falun Gong adherents in Sichuan, with over 19,000 people [staff members] involved in the capital city alone. He was sued for human rights abuses on a visit to Taiwan in 2011, then the governor of Anhui Province.
During Wang’s tenure, Sichuan and Anhui Falun Gong practitioners were arrested without hard crime evidence, and sentenced to prison without trial.
According to Minghui.org, an overseas website that documents the persecution of Falun Gong, many of the orders were concretized and planned in minute detail by the provincial branches of the 610 Office, an extralegal security agency that Jiang Zemin established to handle Falun Gong.
According to human rights groups, at least 60 Falun Gong adherents died in Sichuan, Fujian and Anhui while Wang was in office.