Chen Xu, Shanghai’s former public prosecutor, unveiled the plaque for a new state-run legal research association on the morning of March 1.
Come seven o’clock that evening, he was being investigated for “severe disciplinary violations” by the Chinese regime’s anti-corruption agency. The phrase implies corruption.
Chen, 64, is the second high-ranking official from the international port city of Shanghai to be purged since Chinese leader Xi Jinping launched his anti-corruption campaign in 2013. The first prominent Shanghai official to fall was former deputy mayor Ai Baojun in 2015.
The arrest of Chen, a key figure in Shanghai’s political and legal apparatus with close ties to top associates of a powerful Party clan, suggests an impending cleanup of Shanghai officialdom, according to a high-profile lawyer who has long jousted with the faction.
Zheng Enchong, a Shanghai-based human rights lawyer, told Epoch Times in a recent interview that Chen Xu enjoyed a meteoric career rise after he appeared to abuse his position to aid the notorious “Shanghai Gang,” as it is known. Zheng has long been held under house arrest for his attempts to hold members of the Shanghai Gang accountable.
The Gang is overseen by the family of former Chinese Communist Party leader Jiang Zemin. Jiang also heads a powerful Party faction whose members are being targeted under Xi’s anti-corruption campaign.
When Chen was head of the Shanghai No.1 Intermediate People’s Court in 2002, he saw that Zhou Zhengyi, a corrupt Chinese businessman with close ties to Jiang Mianheng, the elder son of Jiang Zemin, was punished lightly relative to the severe financial crimes he committed, according to Zheng. Chen also saw that Zheng Enchong was given a tough time for daring to confront the Gang in defending those they disenfranchised.
Chen appeared to be rewarded with higher office for twisting the law to the Gang’s advantage.
In March 2002, Chen made deputy secretary of the Shanghai Municipal Political and Legal Affairs Commission (PLAC), a Communist Party organ that oversees the prisons, the courts, and the police. Wu Zhiming, the nephew of Jiang Zemin and a top Shanghai Gang member, was then head of the Shanghai PLAC.
The following year, Chen Xu got the attention of then Shanghai chief and Jiang protégé Chen Liangyu, and was made top aide of then Shanghai deputy chief Liu Yungeng.
Zheng Enchong had once reported Chen Xu and Liu Yungeng to the central authorities in Beijing for scrubbing the court records of a hearing where a defendant lodged a complaint against Chen. But Zheng’s complaint appeared to be ignored, and instead Chen Xu became the procuratorate chief in 2008.
“Those who have come into contact with Chen Xu are aware that he is a minor thug with the Shanghai Gang,” Zheng Enchong said. “It’s not a trifling feat for a regular legal official to rise to the procuratorate chair … [Chen] is complete crony of Han Zheng” the former Shanghai mayor and current Shanghai Party Secretary, according to Zheng.
The recent fall of Chen follows his resignation in January 2016. In April, Chen was accused of abusing the legal system to safeguard criminal elements in Shanghai in a post on Sina Weibo, a Twitter-like service.
Zheng Enchong believes that there is a correlation between the paucity of Shanghai officials being purged for corruption and Chen Xu.
But the arrest of Chen just before the Two Sessions, the first important Party meeting of the calendar year, and ahead of the leadership reshuffle at the 19th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, sends out a clear message, says Zheng.
To wit: “The Shanghai Gang is on the cusp of complete disintegration.”
Rona Rui contributed to this article.