A former Chinese municipal prosecutor has been found guilty of a litany of corruption crimes. What the Chinese authorities failed to reveal was his involvement in human rights abuses.
Liu Li, the former deputy chief of the municipal procuratorate at Jixi City in northern China’s Heilongjiang Province, was found guilty of organizing, participating, and protecting his family’s criminal organization, according to a May 5 announcement released by the Heilongjiang Commission for Discipline Inspection, an anti-corruption party organ that investigates and punishes misbehaving Chinese Communist Party members.
Liu has a long list of crimes to his name, including using drugs, accepting bribes, paying off bribes to people with influence, abusing power, exchanging money for power, and extortion. The brief announcement did not elaborate on the details of his crimes.
As punishment, the commission stripped Liu of his Party membership, canceled his retirement benefits, and confiscated all his illicit earnings. Additionally, Liu’s case would now be prosecuted and brought to court.
Liu had a long political tenure in Jixi. He started his career at the prosecutor’s office in Jiguan District in Jixi City, where he was eventually named deputy chief in 2000 and then chief in 2003. He eventually moved to the Jixi prosecutor’s office in 2008 and was named the deputy in 2010, before he retired in July 2014, at the age of 49.
It is not known what prompted his retirement, at a relatively early age for Party officials.
Hints of trouble came in October 2018 when the Heilongjiang commission announced that Liu had been placed under investigation for “serious violation of the Party’s discipline and law”—an oft-used euphemism for corruption.
The following month, a state-run news site based in Heilongjiang reported that local authorities had taken down a criminal group headed by Liu and his brothers Liu Gang and Liu Qiang. The article listed a phone number and email address for the local police in Jiamusi City in Heilongjiang, asking people to provide evidence for their crimes.
China’s state-run newspaper The Beijing News reported that Liu once forced local mines to make him a shareholder. For one of them, Liu did not invest any money in it but was awarded 10 million yuan (about $1.5 million) annually for an unknown period of time.
Human Rights Abuses
Neither the Chinese state-run media nor Chinese authorities pointed out Liu’s most serious crimes—his involvement in the persecution of Chinese citizens who are adherents of the spiritual practice Falun Gong.
Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is an ancient spiritual practice based on meditative exercises and moral teachings of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance. The group’s enormous popularity—official estimates placed the number of practitioners in China at 70 million to 100 million by the late 1990s—was viewed by then-Party leader Jiang Zemin as a threat to his rule.
In July 1999, Jiang launched a country-wide persecution to round up practitioners and throw them into prisons, brainwashing centers, labor camps, and psychiatric wards—in an effort to force them to abandon their faith. Since then, many Chinese officials have supported Jiang’s campaign, in a bid to climb up the Party’s political ladder.
Liu’s involvement in the persecution came in the form of prosecuting innocent Falun Gong adherents, especially during the time when he worked at the Jiguan District, according to Minghui.org, a U.S.-based website dedicated to documenting the persecution of Falun Gong in China.
The website documented one particular example when Liu began working at the Jixi prosecutor’s office. On May 14, 2009, local police in Jixi raided and ransacked the home of Liu Xuegang (no relation to Liu) and his wife Zhong Li, who were subsequently taken away by the police and then held at a detention center.
According to Minghui.org, a trial was eventually held for the couple at a court in Jiguan District on Nov. 10, 2009. The trial allegedly took place without due process; there was no cross-examination of evidence presented by the prosecutor. In addition, the police only granted Zhong the right to use the toilet after she agreed to give a testimony. The couple was eventually each sentenced to eight years in prison on an unknown date.
Zhong reportedly was abused while confined at a women’s prison in Harbin City, the capital of Heilongjiang. According to a 2011 report by Minghui.org, Zhong was subjected to different tortures, such as being forced to sit on a small stool for an extended period of time, and not being allowed to use the toilet. At the same time, some prison inmates were instructed by prison guards to abuse Zhong.