Li Huaiqing, a businessman from Chongqing who was arrested in 2018 on suspicion of “inciting subversion of state power,” attended his court hearing in Chongqing on June 10. Li told the judge that he’s the victim of persecution directed by Deng Huilin, the former Chongqing deputy mayor and chief of the public security (police) bureau who was recently sacked.
Li was arrested on Jan. 31 by the Chongqing police on charges of “involvement with the mafia.” He has been detained since.
Li was chairman of the Chongqing Fuhua Pawn Company. He joined the WeChat group called “Global Report” a few years ago, in which he posted an article critical of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s history. He later refused to follow police orders to report the chat group’s founder.
In January 2019, Li was prosecuted by the First Branch of the Chongqing Procuratorate for false imprisonment, fraud, extortion, and incitement to subvert state power. The latter is an oft-used charge to crack down on dissidents.
Li and his lawyer stated through evidence that the first three counts were frame-up charges by the police and prosecutor’s office. The seven incriminations listed by prosecutors in the “incitement to subversion” charge are his comments about corrupt officials on WeChat, five of which came from a personal private chat, and two from a group chat.
Li alleged that the real mastermind behind his case was Sun Lijun, former deputy minister of the Ministry of Public Security.
Li’s wife, Bao Yan, told The Epoch Times that Li disclosed in the court hearing that the real reason for his arrest and imprisonment was an incident that took place at a charity event that offended Sun.
At the end of 2017, at a charity event organized by the local foundation “Gonghe” in Hangzhou city, foundation members talked about corruption within some departments of the Ministry of Public Security. Since some of the members could write to Chinese leader Xi Jinping directly, everyone suggested that they should report the situation to Xi by letter.
At the time, the corrupt department they spoke about was supervised by Sun. After learning that members of the Gonghe Foundation intended to inform Xi about corrupt officials in the Ministry of Public Security, he was furious and ordered an investigation into the organization.
Sun was dismissed in April this year. He is being probed by the Party’s anti-corruption watchdog for “serious violations of discipline and law.” Since Xi came to power in 2012, he has sacked many officials—primarily his political rivals—under the anti-corruption campaign.
Sun had some scruples, so private entrepreneurs such as Li became the scapegoats, Li alleged.
Bao Yan quoted her husband’s testimony: “His original words are, ‘in fact, my case is trivial. Why is it such a big deal? In fact, Deng Huilin’s instruction came from Sun Lijun.’”
Deng, then-chief of the Chongqing police bureau, was in charge of a task force created to investigate the people at the Gonghe foundation who wanted to file a complaint with Xi. Deng had close ties with Sun because they had both worked for Meng Jianzhu, China’s former minister of public security and Politburo member. Meng was a powerful member of the Party faction loyal to former Party leader Jiang Zemin.
Li also said that Deng had personally interrogated him. During the interrogation, Deng revealed an “insider story”: A Shanghai entrepreneur at the charity event was also arrested, but was released after paying a 200 million yuan (roughly $28 million) fine. That means Li could also be released if he pleaded a fine of 200 million yuan.
Li told Deng that he didn’t have that much money because he was only a small business owner. Deng also asked Li to cooperate in a criminal investigation whereby he would fabricate charges against his political opponents in order to take them down, Li alleged.
Li refused the request. Deng was offended and threatened to confiscate all his property and to sentence him to 15 to 20 years’ imprisonment.
Li said that all his statements are facts, and Deng can go to court to challenge him.
Bao also revealed that Deng was very nervous after Sun was purged in April this year. So he immediately asked the court to start the hearing on Li’s case as soon as possible, and planned to close the case in mid-May.
Due to the convening of the plenary session—a major political meeting where Party elite typically discuss future personnel changes and policies—the handling of serious cases was postponed. But the court informed Li on the last day of the plenary session that it would open a hearing on Li’s case a week later. But Li’s lawyers said it would be impossible to communicate with the client and formulate a defense plan in such a short timeframe, and constituted a violation of Li’s legal rights.
Then, abruptly, the Party announced that Deng was placed under investigation. China’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, a Communist Party anti-corruption organ, issued a brief statement on June 14, announcing that Deng is suspected of “serious violations of law and Party discipline.” The vague charge is an oft-used euphemism for corruption.
Despite the news, Bao is concerned about her husband. “Although Deng Huilin is down, Li Huaiqing cannot be released immediately,” she said.
“Although this big tree fell [Deng], its system, including the Chongqing police bureau and prosecutor’s office, played a very bad role,” she said.
To Bao’s surprise, when Li told his side of the story during the third day of the trial, the presiding judge did not interrupt his testimony. “I think it’s really strange, they actually let him finish talking,” Bao said.
Li pleaded not guilty to all four charges.
Bao said she was threatened by local authorities to refrain from speaking to foreign media, or else risk arrest. She said, “I’m not afraid anyway. I don’t care anymore. I just tell the truth.”