Shanghai’s most powerful prosecutor, Chen Xu was practically untouchable, as political and elite circles had to have known about his misdeeds.
But his web of well-heeled connections and his knowledge of the ins-and-outs of China’s legal system allowed him to cover his tracks.
After years of eluding anti-corruption authorities, Chen was finally ensnared, found guilty of corruption in May 2017, and expelled from the Chinese Communist Party. In late October, he was sentenced to life imprisonment on charges of abuse of power and taking bribes worth more than 74 million yuan ($10.6 million).
His case implicated dozens of other corrupt officials in Shanghai’s legal apparatus who colluded with him. At the time of his purge, many saw his downfall as a sign that the Shanghai gang—a posse of officials who rose to power through the political patronage of former Party leader Jiang Zemin—was falling apart.
In the wake of Chen’s arrest and conviction, about 100 officials said to be linked to Chen are under scrutiny, the Hong Kong newspaper South China Morning Post reported Nov. 12, citing a source familiar with the case. Most of those under investigation are members or associates of an opposition faction loyal to Jiang.
Chen is the second high-ranking official from Shanghai to be purged since current Chinese leader Xi Jinping began a sweeping anti-corruption campaign after he came to power in 2012 . The most powerful Shanghai official to meet his downfall is former deputy mayor Ai Baojun, who was sentenced to 17 years of imprisonment in April 2017.
As a Shanghai gang member, Chen also had close connections with Jiang and his family. While serving as deputy secretary of the Shanghai Political and Legal Affairs Commission (PLAC), he was the right-hand man to the PLAC secretary—Jiang’s nephew Wu Zhiming.
The PLAC was once a Party organ that practically controlled all of China’s security apparatus—dominated by Jiang faction officials. Since Xi came to power, he has whittled down the PLAC’s authority and purged many key Jiang faction officials within the system.
According to Epoch Times interviews with Shanghai human-rights lawyer Zheng Enchong—who has directly faced legal battles with Chen and his entourage, while Chen was head of the Shanghai No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court in 2002, Chen ensured that Zhou Zhengyi, a corrupt Chinese businessman with close ties to the Jiang family, received light punishment and got away with committing serious financial crimes.
A June report by Chinese business magazine Caixin exposed how Chen’s dominance in Shanghai’s legal system allowed him and his associates to skirt the law while benefiting themselves.
Several of Chen’s former colleagues have since been purged, including deputy director of the Shanghai arbitration committee and a close friend of Chen’s, Wang Kangwu, who was sentenced to six and a half years imprisonment for graft; former head prosecutor Ye Qing, sacked in June 2018; and Pan Furen, former head of the No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court, who was dismissed in July 2017.