Former Shenyang Resident Details Corruption in Mainland China

September 9, 2008 Updated: September 18, 2008

My name is Chenxi Liu. I was born in a very happy and loving family in Shenyang in northeastern China in 1981 and my parents both worked at a food company. My father began to do some business on his own in about 1990 and was able to save a comparatively large sum of money over the years. Then in 2001 my father was hired by Star Group as a general manager. Later, in 2002, my mother was also hired by Star Group as an assistant manager.  At that time, I was studying in college, majoring in journalism.

In May 2002, the Star Supermarket, which belonged to Star Group was almost going out of business due to bad management. The president of Star Group sent my parents to run this Star Supermarket which was located in a small town in the same province not far from Shenyang.  Their positions were general manager and assistant manager and each earned 5,000 yuan (approx. USD$750) per month. All the other employees in this Star Supermarket were hired by the Star Group as well.

Due to my parents’ hard work and experience in management, Star Supermarket soon became the largest supermarket in that small town and made a lot of money.  My parents are very nice people and they always used their own money to help their employees whose families had problems, and devoted themselves to the Star Supermarket. They would stay in the small town for months at a time before leaving to go home. I went to the supermarket to do part-time jobs during the winter and summer holidays and I got along very well with the employees. From this, I also learned a lot about running a supermarket business.

The success of the supermarket gained a lot of attention from local government officials. In China, it takes a generous gesture and lots money to gain a good relationship with government officials, especially for private businesses. People began talking about how much money the supermarket made since it was the largest and the only modern supermarket in the city. My parents would take local officials to expensive restaurants on holidays or on other important occasions such as birthdays or wedding parties for officials, their sons, or their daughters.

However, they had no ability to bribe local officials with large amounts of cash because they made a salary just like any other employees in the company. They did not have direct access to corporate finances, particularly government tax records. The supermarket accountant was appointed by a parent company and communicated directly to the parent company for tax reporting. Sometimes, the parent company would request the entire accounting records turned over for periodical review.

My parents thought that they had done their best as they could as managers for the company. However, my parents’ inability to lavish gifts on local officials with corporate funds and their unwillingness to use their own money to forge a “strong official alliance” was seen by local officials as “showing disrespect” to the local establishments. Their trouble with the government started right then.

In December 2002, I was in my last year of college and was just 7 months from graduation. The university's journalism department required that senior students must work at a newspaper company as an intern. I interned at the City Times and became a front-page newspaper journalist. My main job was to interview and report on local government meetings. I worked very hard and wrote several good articles and then I was referred to the city government where I worked in the media agency of the mayor’s office for three months, beginning in Feb. 2003.  

During this time, I personally witnessed how corrupt the government and the communist party were.  Every morning I passed through the tightly-secured entrance to the government complex and I would see many Chinese people appealing to the government for help but they were forbidden to enter to the complex and were kept outside the entrance gates by armed guards.  At the time, I never imagined that one day the corruption of the Chinese government would be directed at my own family.

I stopped working for the city government in May 2003 and returned to my internship with the City Times newspaper. I graduated from the university in July 2003 and I continued to work for the City Times.

In October 2003, there was a cultural exchange program between China and Australia for high school and college age soccer players. Since I can speak English, the newspaper assigned me as the journalist to interview the participants of the entire tournament while traveling with them through 17 provinces in China. Two months before the exchange program began, I went to a language school three nights per week to improve my oral English. When my father was in the city, he would pick me up after language school and drive me home.

On October 31, 2003, I did not see my father who had said he would pick me up from language school that night. I called his cell phone numerous times but there was no answer and I walked home by myself. When I arrived home, I was shocked—the door was open and all the lights were on and our apartment was  ransacked.  I saw my father’s coat on the floor but my father was nowhere to be found. I asked my neighbors if they had seen my father but none of them did. My mother was away on vacation in South Korea at that time.

Two days later, I received a phone call from a jail in the small town where the Star Supermarket was located. I was told that my father had been arrested. They told me to deposit some money to the jail to provide food and blankets for my father. This may seem very strange to Americans but in China when a person has been arrested, they are not given food or blankets unless their families deposit money to the jail. I went to the jail immediately but was not allowed to see my father. So I deposited 3,000 yuan (approx. USD$400) through a tiny window. My only hope was to wait for my mother’s return from South Korea.

On Nov. 2, 2003, I went to the airport to pick up my mother. Just when I saw my mother disembarking from her plane, five men approached her and handcuffed her. I shouted to my mother but two of the men turned back to me and yelled, “Shut up, otherwise we will arrest you, too!” My aunt who accompanied me to the airport asked the men for the warrant authorizing the arrest. One of the men yelled at us, “It seems you want to go to jail together!” We did not know who they were at that time because they they did not wear any uniforms. Now both my parents were in prison for doing nothing wrong. I was 22 years old at the time and the only child in the family.

Two days later, I received another phone call from the jail and I was told to deposit more money. This time, it was for my mother. The man who called me told me not to deposit the money through that tiny window as I did for my father. He said he would like to meet me in person. So besides bringing the money I was going to deposit for my mother, I also brought an extra 2,000 yuan and some expensive brand cigarettes for that man. I was only 22 years old but I worked in the city government and I knew about the Chinese government's corruption very well.  

We met in a very quiet place not far from the jail. He told me about my parents’ situation, saying, “Both of your parents are business people. They cannot endure life in jail at all. The officers treat them very badly because your parents did not give them money. I would like to help you and your parents, so I will give the money to the officers who were charge of your parents.”

I gave him 3,000 yuan plus the 2,000 yuan for him to build the connection for my parents and then he grabbed the cigarettes from my hand and told me if he needed more money he would contact me. My parents were put into prison illegally, with no warrants and no official charges filed

I left my city on November 13, 2003, and worked as a reporter for the exchange program with the Australian soccer students. During that time while I traveling with the Australian group, my aunts and my uncles received phone calls regularly from the police station and prison. They used all kinds of excuses to demand money. In the morning of November 26, 2003, a policeman from the police station called my aunt and told her if they paid 400,000 yuan (approx. USD$58,000) for the bond money, they would release my parents that afternoon.  

If my relatives refused to pay the bond, my parents would be in danger, they said. The police also told my aunt that my parents’ formal charge was tax evasion while they were at the Star Supermarket. I knew clearly that this was a big fabrication. Neither one of my parents was a corporate officer or an accountant or treasurer. They were simply employees of the corporation and had nothing to do with the financial records of the company. The Star Supermarket was owned by a parent company, the Star Group.   

However, I knew very well the degree to which the Chinese government was corrupt. There is no rule of law in China. My relatives began to borrow money from all the people they could ask for help. My aunt and my uncle went to the police station in the small town and gave them 400,000 yuan on 4:30 p.m. on Nov. 23, 2003. The police deposited the 400,000 yuan into a personal bank account, not an official government bank account, and forced my parents to sign the certificate of release on bail. They told my parents that the release on bail would only last for one year. One year later, my parents could get back their bail money.

My parents suffered a great deal while in the prison during that month. When I returned from the Australian soccer tour in December 2003, we sold our apartment and lived in our relatives’ homes to pay off our debts. We had to move from one place to another. The police in the small town would call my parents every few weeks and told my parents to meet them in fancy restaurants. After finishing, they would force my parents to pay the restaurant bill. Sometimes, they would force my parents to buy them expensive clothes..

One year later in November 23, 2004, my parents’ release on bail was to expire.  My mother called the police station and told them that she wanted their bail money back. The police said that they were too busy at that time. It happened that some provincial leaders were at the police station so if my parents went to that police station they would be in danger of being arrested again. They told my parents to wait for a few days. When my mother called the police again a few days later, the police told her that she did not claim their bail money on time, so the bail money was confiscated by the police station.  

We had paid a total of 1,000,000 yuan (USD$145,000) to the police, sold our apartment, and had also accumulated a lot of debt. In March 2005, my mother and I began our appeals to the government. We appealed to many government agencies for help, such as the Provincial People’s Congress, the People’s Political Consultative Conference, the Provincial Commission for Inspecting Discipline.

Finally they told us that the only government agency who could solve this problem was the Provincial Public Security Bureau. We went to the Provincial Public Security Bureau several times. By the end of June 2005, they told us that we should go back to the local police station in that small town to resolve the issue. We told them that we were afraid to go because of what had happened before but the officers from the Provincial Public Security Bureau promised us that we would not be in danger.  

On July 4, 2005, my mother and I went to the local police station. The policeman in charge of this case, Xun Wang, told us to wait for a while. An hour later, he returned with two policewomen and again they arrested my mother. When I asked him why he arrested my mother again, he pointed his finger at my nose and yelled, “Stop asking! Listen, I can arrest your whole family!” I have been living in such a place—a country that has no law, no freedom, or human rights.

My life became very dangerous since then. The local police always called me and asked, “Where is your father?” They also threatened me—if I did not tell them my father’s whereabouts they would arrest me as well. I could not live a normal life because I had to migrate from place to place in order to live everyday. Sometimes, I lived with my relatives, sometimes with co-workers, friends, or my classmates.

When my mother was arrested on July 4, 2005, I went to the Provincial Public Security Bureau again with one of my co-workers to appeal. However, we were not allowed to enter the building and the police there pushed us out with force without any reason.

Since I did a very good job on my assignment with the Australian soccer student exchange program, I was hired by the Provincial Academy in December 2003. The Provincial Academy was the official government sponsor/organizer of the Australian exchange program. In July 2005, when my co-workers in the Provincial Academy got to know my situation, they all tried to help. They tried to use some connections they had in the provincial government but everybody they asked for help demanded a huge amount of money upfront before they would do anything—the corruption in China is endless.

We had a lot of debts already but there was no way I could borrow money again. Finally, I decided to write articles and published them in different media, even though I knew this could bring me big trouble but I had no choice. I tried to publish my articles on a very popular website in China, Sina website, and others but none of them approved my articles because I exposed the truth about the Chinese government’s corruption.

On September 22, 2006, the court announced for the criminal prosecution of my mother. She was convicted for a three-year imprisonment term with a three-year suspension with probation. For 15 months, I had not seen or talked with my Mom. The only news about my mother was from the prison officers who demanded me to deposit money for my mother. Every month I deposited more than 2,000 yuan like the police required but my mother never received any of it. An average worker in Shenyang makes less than 2,000 yuan each month!  

Meanwhile, I had to ask my father to quit his new job and hide himself because he might be arrested again. The entire situation put huge pressure on me. I had to deposit money for my mother and my father, plus I also had to manage my own living expenses. In addition, on each holiday or festival, I had to invite the police out for dinner in fancy restaurants and buy them very expensive gifts. Otherwise, my mother would be beaten in the prison. Even now, when I recall the persecution I have suffered through, I still feel frightened and I often wake up from recurring nightmares that my parents were arrested again.

I knew that we had to accept the truth that in China there is no law, no freedom, and no human rights.  If we want to survive, we have to accept everything the government has been doing and just have to try to be numb and ignorant. I was so ashamed that my own country would perpetrate such things.

In Nov. 2006, an American piano company hired me as their translator in China. They were very satisfied with my translation work so they invited me to attend a Piano Technician’s Guild Convention in Kansas City, MO and the National Association of Music Merchants trade show in Anaheim, CA.  The company also designed a 30-day in-house training class for me regarding pianos.  

I became the Chinese liaison and took charge of developing business relationships with factories and parts suppliers in China. This was in preparation for the American piano company to begin to sell its products inside China to Chinese consumers. My parents were very proud of my accomplishments. We thought we could just start a new life and let time help us recover from the pain that we suffered through.

However on April 16, 2008, when my father was opening an account in a bank, the police arrested my him again. The charge was that my father was an escaped criminal, which was a completely false charge and this time the police abused my father very badly. My father has gout and must take special medicine three times a day. The police refused to give my father the medicine and my father suffered a great deal from the unimaginable pain and begged for a painkiller, but the police just yelled at him, “We only have poison.” They also beat my father every day.  

Every day I received more than ten phone calls from the police station, prison, procuratorate and the court.  They all demanded huge amounts of bribe money for many ridiculous reasons. The police also threatened my father, “If you do not pay the money, we will arrest your daughter and then no one can make money in your family anymore!” Finally, with the help of my relatives, we paid the police station, prison, procuratorate and court 220,000 yuan without any receipt.  They released my father on April 30, 2008, but my father suffered permanent damage from not receiving his gout medication for two weeks.

At the time of my father’s arrest in April 2008, I was traveling with the American piano company’s president in China for business. He was shocked about what had happened to me and my family, so he helped me to come to America on May 22, 2008.

In July 2008, while I was in America, my father was arrested again. This time the arrest was conducted by the court and not by the police station in the city.  The court demanded 100,000 yuan but my mother was able to negotiate it down to 50,000 yuan. Finally they charged my father with the same crime of “tax evasion,” but they offered not to record it if we paid extra money. My parents had to comply.

Here is an email my mother sent to me on July 18, 2008:

“This is a totally corrupted place. Before your father's trial started, the judge said to your father that he had rights to providing an honest defense argument. But when the court started, no matter what questions they asked, your father was forced to give an answer they expected.

The judge said, 'You asked the accountant to steal tax money, is that true?' Your father said, 'No, I never did that and I swear that I knew nothing about tax or what the accountant did.' On hearing this, the judge pounded the gavel and said that your father’s attitude was poor. The judge also said that what your father was doing brought them big trouble and they had to change their ways in handling him.

Then the judge yelled, 'Police, prepare the car and put him into prison.' Then I told your father to just say what the judge requested you to say. After the judge heard me, his attitude changed immediately and said to your father, 'See, your wife is smarter than you are. I will ask your sister to punish you afterwards.' Then your father answered all the questions the way that the judge requested him to do…”

Eventually, my father received the same sentence as my mother did and got out of the prison after the trial since they spent all the money they borrowed, a total of 750,000. yuan.

Now, I’m in America, a country with freedom, democracy and human rights. I still cannot enjoy myself because my parents are still in China suffering. I appeal to all kind hearted people to help my parents come to the US, so that they can have a peaceful life. I also appeal to the American government to help to improve China’s human rights. Every voice counts.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Chenxi Liu
Chenxi Liu