Four people, including a former deputy police chief in northern China, were sentenced to life in prison for their roles as accomplices to the looting of ancient tombs.
The High People’s Court of Shanxi Province reported Sept. 12 that the previous day, 10 people had stood trial for the thefts, including former police officers tasked with protecting the ancient relics.
Among the four sentenced to life in prison were Jing Yimin, the former deputy chief of the Wenxi County Public Security Bureau, and civil police officer Li Anji, who served in the ultural Relics Criminal Investigation Brigade (CRCIB). Another CRCIB officer, Li Xiaodong, and five additional people were handed prison sentences of six to 16 years. All had their assets confiscated.
Shanxi Province is part of the ancient Chinese heartland. Home to the capitals of multiple dynasties and kingdoms, it is rich in cultural artifacts and tombs of monarchs and nobles; selling the relics can make raiders an overnight fortune.
Previously, on March 26, Jing and other three individuals were sentenced by the Intermediate People’s Court in the Shanxi city of Yuncheng for involvement in criminal activities that included looting ancient tombs and historical sites, and helping criminals evade justice. Another six people were sentenced for similar crimes. Jing and other defendants appealed the verdict; the case was transferred to the High People’s Court of Shanxi, the highest court in the province.
The sentences remained unchanged.
The court said hat from 2010 to 2016, defendant Jing Yimin had provided asylum for members of a criminal gang, including gang leader Zhang Chengjun, who were engaged in looting ancient tombs. Jing had ordered CRCIB officers Li Anji and Li Xiaodong to deliberately make detours while patroling historical sites, to facilitate the tomb-raiding operation. Zhang was also among those who were sentenced.
Zhang and seven other defendants raided artifacts from 26 ancient tombs located in nationally protected cultural sites, collecting 100 items that included ancient bronzeware.
In addition to helping Zhang raid the tombs, Jing Yimin also organized thefts in 13 other tombs in the protected sites, stealing other artifacts. Jing also covered for criminals who ran gambling houses, and illegally bailed out a criminal who was guilty of assault and possession of firearms, organized gambling, and drug trafficking.
In a tomb-raiding case opened last January, the police in Wenxi County were involved in the thefts. At least 13 public officials were involved, including two deputy police directors—one of them being Jing—seven civil police officers, and four auxiliary police officers.
The state-run Chinese newspaper Legal Evening News, reported on Sept. 6 that all personnel in the CRCIB of the Wenxi County police were implicated in connection with the charges; all received legal punishment or were fired from their posts.
According to the report, the Wenxi Public Security Bureau supplied the detonators and explosives used to break into the ancient tombs.
Early in January 2012, Professor Lei Xingshan, an archaeologist at Peking University, told the Guardian that more than 900 tombs in one area of Shanxi had been plundered.
“We used to say nine out of 10 tombs were empty because of tomb-raiding, but now it has become 9.5 out of 10,” Lei told the Guardian.