Party’s Anticorruption Fight Sometimes Gets Violent

September 3, 2013 Updated: September 3, 2013

Former local-level Communist Party official Lü Zijiang stood trial this May at Yongkang City Court in Zhejiang Province on charges of accepting bribery. He recounted his experiences of what he said was torture by personnel of a high-level Chinese Communist Party agency. A full audience was in attendance. 

Lü has denied the bribery allegations, saying that he had been tortured and sodomized to extract his confession. “The CCP Central Commission for Discipline Inspection … ordered people to shock me with electric batons until I passed out, and they even sodomized me three times,” he said, as reported by the Party-run news portal

Lü Zijiang was Secretary of Jiangnan Neighborhood Work Committee in Yongkang, Zhejiang Province. He is but one victim of the violence being perpetrated in the anticorruption campaign launched early this year by the new Party administration. 

General Secretary Xi Jinping has maintained the image of being tough on corruption ever since he took the reins after the 18th Party Congress. In a speech made in November 2012, referring to corrupt officials, he stated that “all actions violating Party rule and national law must be severely punished” and “we can’t afford to be soft.”  

Thousands of officials charged with corruption have been dealt with through the shuanggui system. “Shuanggui”, meaning roughly “dual designation”, refers to the Party’s extralegal means of prosecuting and punishing its members, who are summoned to a designated time and place to be interrogated. The offending official can be detained indefinitely and denied legal representation, with no contact with the outside world. 

According to the human rights avocacy group Dui Hua, there have been reports of psychological manipulation and physical torture during detention and interrogation, such as sleep deprivation, simulated drowning, burning the detainee’s skin with cigarettes, and beating. 

In June, Guan Shaofeng, 50-year-old head of the inspection department at Dandong city’s custom house, was apprehended at his office and detained on charges that he accepted 42,000 yuan (about $6,800) in bribes. According to his wife, Guan was deprived of sleep for four days, the Telegraph reported. He was then transferred to the courts to face trial. 

A number of cases of officials dying in custody have also surfaced. In April, Yu Qiyi, chief engineer of the Wenzhou Industry Investment Group died while being held on charges of receiving a 2 million yuan (about $320,000). A photo of his corpse caused shock among netizens. A few weeks later, Henan Province court official Jia Jiuxiang under investigation for property-related graft was reported by the authorities to have died of a heart attack while the the custody of shuanggui, according to The Atlantic. 

Because the CCP habitually operates outside Chinese law, the shuanggui system, run by the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, acts as a convenient tool for the Party leadership to maintain an atmosphere of terror and hence loyalty within its ranks, Dui Hua, the rights group, wrote in a 2011 report. Torture and other forms of intimidation can be freely exercised to a far greater extent than under civil judiciary. Because of its extralegal nature, shuanggui allows the Party to deal with internal cases in relative secrecy, without letting potentially embarrassing or controversial details spill out into public view. 

With translation by Amy Xu and Rebecca Chen. Research by Lu Chen.