Top Official in Southern China Abruptly Sacked

Demolisher of homes in Yunnan has career demolished in Beijing
March 15, 2015 Updated: March 16, 2015

It’s not the conclusion to his most recent jaunt to Beijing that Qiu He, the deputy Communist Party secretary of Yunnan Province, in China’s far south, likely expected.

But a day after his appearance at a political meeting, it was announced on the website of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, the Party’s antigraft police, that Qiu He was being investigated for “severe violations of discipline and law.”

For all intents and purposes, this means that his career is finished, and he is likely to be spirited away for secret interrogations, and possibly torture, to elicit confessions and a list of his co-conspirators.

The brief announcement—it was only 26 Chinese characters long—was posted at 1 p.m., just three hours after the closing of the National People’s Congress (NPC) session in Beijing, and less than 20 minutes after the press conference of Premier Li Keqiang that wrapped up the NPC session. The National People’s Congress is the Communist Party’s equivalent of a legislature, used to pass legislation and give the appearance of due process to policymaking.

The abrupt announcement was surprising even to Qiu’s colleagues—he, after all, attended the Yunnan Delegation Meeting of the NPC the previous day, according to Chinese news media Sina Weibo. He was also on the front page report of the Yunnan Daily as a delegate, and safely went back to the Yunnan Delegation station after the closing of the NPC session.

As the first sacked official following the political sessions, in particular in such an unceremonious manner, Qiu has become the focus of media attention in China. Several outlets quoted insider sources saying that the investigation relates to Kunming City’s urban construction system. Kunming is the capital of southwestern China’s Yunnan Province.

Qiu heavily promoted the urbanization and forced house demolitions in Kunming—massive projects like that are often used to channel vast public funds into private hands, and hand out fat contracts to loyal allies.

During Qiu’s term from 2007 to 2011 as head of Kunming’s Communist Party Committee, over 6 million citizens faced forced evictions from their homes, which were then demolished, said Yang Weijun, former vice chairman of Yunnan Political Consultative Conference (an advisory body to the Communist Party) in an interview with Sina.

“It’s totally unrealistic for Kunming and Yunnan, because 90 percent of Yunnan’s land is mountainous and semi-mountainous. How could it adapt to such urbanization? It destroyed all the good farmland of Yunnan,” Yang said.

Yang indicated that forcing urbanization only brought Qiu a good gross domestic product score, and political achievements he could brandish to higher-ups—but it made millions lose their farmland, houses, and jobs.

The 92 year-old Yang, known as an “anti-corruption fighter” in the Chinese press, is well-known for reporting Qiu’s malfeasance. Yang once revealed to Chinese media that Qiu is a close ally of Bai Enpei, a disgraced former Yunnan Party secretary who has also been investigated for corruption.

Many powerful officials in Yunnan Province had close ties with former Chinese communist leader Jiang Zemin, whose power remained widespread and robust even years after his resignation, and as the new leadership regime of Xi Jinping took stage in late 2012.

Many powerful officials in Yunnan Province had close ties with former Chinese communist leader Jiang Zemin.

Bai Enpei, a friend of Qiu, was one of Jiang factional allies, reported by Chinese news media to have engaged in extensive illicit financial dealings with disgraced former security chief Zhou Yongkang and his family. Zhou is well-known as a key ally of Jiang in China’s domestic security system.

Among other Yunnan officials associated with Jiang Zemin who have come to no good end include: former Yunnan Deputy Gov. Shen Peiping, who was sacked last March; former Party Secretary of Kunming Zhang Tianxin, who was dismissed last July; former Kunming Party Committee member and Vice Mayor Li Xi, who was investigated last October; and former Party secretary of Yunnan, Qin Guangrong, who was dismissed last October.

Qin, as the head of Yunnan Province, had particularly close ties with Jiang, having taken an active role in Jiang’s personal political campaign, the persecution of the Falun Gong spiritual group, which Jiang turned on in 1999. Qin rose through the ranks to be promoted to head of Yunnan, while overseas human rights groups watched him surge through the ranks—seen as rewards for the unquestioning implementation of violent policies—with dismay.