Over the past six months, Chinese authorities have taken particular interest in the legal proceedings of Yang Xiuzhu, a fugitive official seeking asylum in the United States. As part of their ongoing anti-corruption campaign, the Chinese regime has long hoped to recover these escapees and their plentiful, often illicit assets squirreled around the world.
The day before the New York court presiding over Yang’s case reaches a verdict concerning her asylum, she made statements published on Oct. 3 declaring that the charges against her, as well as the regime’s ongoing attempts to obtain her extradition, are politically motivated. She says she offended the former Party leader Jiang Zemin, for not cutting a deal with the latter’s son.
Officials like Yang, who escaped China in 2003, have become an increasing focus of Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign over the last year, after it expanded overseas with the “Sky Net” and “Fox Hunt” programs aimed at nabbing runaway corrupt Party members. Yang has been one of the Party’s flagship cases for repatriation, earning the dubious distinction of being declared the “number one female corrupt official.”
Yang told the World Journal, a Chinese-language newspaper published in the United States, that Xi is adamant about securing her extradition because of possibly incriminating information she has on him. When Yang was serving as deputy mayor of Wenzhou, Xi was the Party committee secretary of Zhejiang Province, where Wenzhou is located.
“Xi might worry that I have evidence against him,” Yang said in an interview with World Journal. “but I haven’t said anything all this time.”
In 2003, Yang, who also served as the deputy chief of the Zhejiang provincial construction bureau, was charged with embezzling about $40 million, according to a report by the Wenzhou authorities. She escaped China and fled to the Netherlands, where she applied for and was denied political asylum.
Apprehended in the United States in 2014, Yang told the World Journal that the Chinese regime was not after her for her economic crimes, but because she had offended the son of former Communist Party boss Jiang Zemin during her tenure.
Regarding the embezzlement accusations, Yang claimed in her interview with World Journal that the figures were skewed to include the corruption of her subordinates.
“How would I ever know how much they embezzled?” Yang said.
“I work rigorously and by the law,” Yang said. “Because of that, I offended a lot of people.”
According to Yang, trouble only came when she turned down multiple requests by Jiang Miankang, Jiang Zemin’s second son, for about 80 acres of land that he wanted for development.
Having rejected the land and project requests of other “important persons'” relatives, she received a short but clear message: “You’re done.”
“They started to get on my case mainly because I offended Jiang,” Yang said.
While in Holland, Yang said that a Chinese friend of hers called her a fool for standing up to the son of the former Party head, notorious for his crony politics.
Hopes of Extradition
When current Chinese leader Xi Jinping took the reins of the Party in late 2012, he also began a massive anti-corruption campaign aimed chiefly at his political rivals in the regime, state-run industries, and the military.
The political clique affiliated with Jiang Zemin, who wielded power over regime affairs long after he had stepped down from his posts in the early 2000s, has taken heavy blows with the investigations and trials of figures such as Zhou Yongkang, who headed China’s multiple police forces.
Over a decade after Yang’s escape, the Global Times, a Chinese state-run newspaper, reported this April that her legal process had begun. The United States has no extradition treaty with China, complicating the regime’s efforts.
According to New York immigration lawyer Li Jinjin, who spoke with Voice of America, Yang Xiuzhu’s bid for asylum has been rejected, but she still has a chance to avoid deportation if the court grants her a protection from torture, a punishment many Chinese inmates face in the hands of communist authorities.
On Sept. 18, Yang’s brother, Jinjun, had been repatriated to China, according to the Party’s anti-corruption agency. This makes him the first to be extradited of over one hundred individuals whose names are included in a wanted list of major Chinese fugitives.
In her interview with World Journal, Yang says she has been asked by her family to go back to China, but wishes to stay in the United States. “I am just a minor official. I have no chips to use in negotiations with the Communist Party and there is no one to vouch for me since I’ve been gone for such a long time. Going back would be a dead end for me.”