Following six months of investigation, a senior official in Henan Province, central China, was formally prosecuted for corruption, including the amassing of 11.05 million yuan (about $1.64 million) in bribes.
Wu Tianjun, a member of the Henan provincial Communist Party standing committee, the head of its Political and Legal Affairs Commission (PLAC), and formerly the Party secretary of the provincial capital, Zhengzhou, stood trial on July 20 in Henan’s Xiangyang Municipal Intermediate Court.
His hair, once dyed jet black, had become completely white—mirroring the court appearance of Zhou Yongkang, the former national-level PLAC director and who was purged in 2015 in current Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign.
As head of the Henan PLAC, Wu Tianjun participated heavily in the 18-year-long persecution of the Falun Gong spiritual practice, a campaign started by former Chinese regime leader Jiang Zemin on July 20, 1999. At least 14 Falun Gong adherents died as a result of persecution on Wu’s watch.
Wu is the third provincial level official in Henan to be purged during the anti-corruption campaign, launched in 2012 after Xi Jinping took office. Wu was accused of taking advantage of his positions in addition to accepting bribes. He pleaded guilty to the charges.
“Embezzling 11.05 million may not sound like much…” reads a report by Sohu, a major mainland Chinese online media group. “But for an ordinary citizen, it’s an astronomical sum, impossible to achieve even after generations of labor. For a couple working full time, 3000 yuan a month for each … they would still need 153 years to accumulate the fortune that Wu Tianjun embezzled.”
The state-run Beijing News speculated about Wu’s downfall as early as 2015, when he was conspicuously absent from standing committee meetings for nearly two months, from June to August, and his whereabouts unknown. The report noted that repeated absence from important events or meetings are signs of impending political disgrace.
On Nov. 11, 2016, Wu Tianjun was formally placed under investigation for disciplinary violations and stripped of his position on the provincial standing committee. That May, he had already been removed from his position as Party secretary of Zhengzhou.
In January this year, he was expelled from the Party and his remaining positions. Wu appeared in an anti-corruption documentary produced by the Party’s disciplinary commission.
In the documentary, a penitent Wu can be seen confessing how he damaged the Communist Party’s image with his conduct.
The 60-year-old Wu made a long-term career in Henan, working there nearly four decades. During his four-year-job as Party secretary of Zhengzhou, the provincial capital, Wu acquired the nickname of “demolition secretary” because he started a large scale project in the municipality to raze 627 villages and relocate over 1.75 million people. In China, where the interests of real estate developers often clash with the livelihoods of numerous, mostly low-income residents, property rights are a prime theme of popular discontent.
Wu apparently followed Li Changchun, a former member of the seven-member Politburo Standing Committee that helms the Chinese Communist Party. In March, 2016, Wu wrote a 4000-word article eulogizing Li’s newly published book. Titled “Thoughts after Reading Li Changchun’s work,” the article praised Li’s Henan reforms during the 1990s as “vividly imaginative,” “grand,” and “enlightening.”
That May, Wu lost his position as Zhengzhou Party secretary.
Serving as head of the Party’s propaganda apparatus from 2001 to 2012, Li Changchun was a long-time aide to former leader Jiang Zemin, who in turn continued to exercise political influence even after he passed the reins of CCP general secretary to Hu Jintao in 2003.
Li played a critical role in shifting popular opinion against the spiritual community of Falun Gong, which had previously been welcomed by both society and the authorities for its positive contributions to public morality and health. In 1998, state and Falun Gong estimates of the number of people who had taken up the practice were 70 and 100 million.
Following the ban of Falun Gong, many officials received promotions and other career benefits from taking active part in the repression. According to Minghui.org, a clearinghouse for firsthand information about Falun Gong and its treatment in mainland China, at least 14 adherents died in torture when Wu Tianjun headed the cities of Xinxiang and Zhengzhou.
Zhu Ying from Xinxiang City in Henan, a nationally acclaimed model worker and former representative to the National People’s Congress, was tortured to death in detention on November 30, 2010, according to Minghui. Local police in arrested her late that September after being deceived into leaving her home.
Zhao Tingyun, a worker in a bus company and another Falun Gong adherent living in Xinxiang, was arrested while delivering food to her husband. She died in police custody nine days later, in January 2006. Major organs were missing from her body.
As an organization, the PLAC carries significant responsibility in persecuting Falun Gong. In recent years the system has seen a continued purge; in 2014, Zhou Yongkang, the PLAC director since 2007 and a powerful ally of Jiang Zemin, was placed under investigation and sentenced to life in prison the next year.
In addition to Wu Tianjun, Qin Yuhai, director of the Henan provincial police bureau, and vice provincial police chief Liu Guoqing were also investigated.