On Feb. 22, Chinese state broadcaster CCTV aired a segment about the hotly-discussed court case involving a mining contract dispute in Shaanxi Province. The case came into the public eye after a famous media personality exposed that files related to the case had gone missing.
Chinese authorities then conducted an investigation, the results of which were aired on the state broadcaster CCTV: Wang Linqing, a former Chinese supreme court judge, had stolen the files. During the segment, CCTV also aired a taped confession in which Wang admitted to his wrongdoing.
The Shaanxi mining case dates back to 2003 and was closed in 2018 after the involved party appealed the verdict twice. The mine located in Yulin City of Shaanxi Province, has 1.9 billion metric tons’ worth coal reserves valued at about 380 billion yuan ($56.7 billion). Two parties both claimed that they had ownership over the mine.
On Dec. 30, 2018, Wang Linqing, the judge during the second appeal, released a video explaining that some of the most important files in the case had disappeared from his office in November 2016. He asked a fellow judge to call the police, but was told the surveillance cameras stopped working at the time and he should not ask for more information. Wang said he suspected that the cameras had been tampered with.
Wang added that the reason he made the video was: “I want to protect myself from being mistreated, so I am using this video as evidence.”
After posting this video, Wang disappeared—until he reappeared in the CCTV confession video.
Wang, initially the whistleblower, claimed that he was the thief who stole the files.
On camera, he said he had two reasons for taking the case file: “partly out of spite, and partly because I didn’t want anyone else dealing with the case.”
Wang Linqing disappeared off the map on Jan. 3. Soon after, Chinese authorities announced that he was under investigation for “leaking state secrets.” Strictly speaking, he was made to “go missing.” And like many Chinese human rights lawyers who went missing, Wang was next seen admitting his guilt on CCTV. The investigation was not judicial; rather, it went by the Chinese Communist Party’s own rules.
In actuality, this investigation was a mistake from the very beginning. The investigation team was led by the Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission (PLAC), a Party agency that oversees the country’s security apparatus, including police, courts, and prosecutors. That is not typical of standard legal procedures, in which investigations would go through the judicial system.
And according to the Chinese constitution, the power of the Supreme People’s Court and Supreme People’s Procuratorate (China’s highest court and prosecutor’s office) are granted by the National People’s Congress (NPC)—the Party’s rubber-stamp legislature. So the above investigation should have been authorized by the NPC.
After Wang posted his first video, the supreme court initially announced that it would investigate, raising people’s suspicions about internal bias. That may have been why the authorities later changed it to the PLAC leading the investigation. Either way, it is an inside job.
The investigation team determined that Wang had leaked state secrets. Although the investigation team did not say what secrets specifically, people have speculated that it is the instructions written in the court files by then-chief justice and president of the supreme court Zhou Qiang and other bosses.
Their existence was first made known in the initial social media post written by the media personality. They are said to contain precise instructions to a judge (not Wang but another judge who presided over the first court appeal) on how to rule in the case.
Of course, Zhou and the other Party leaders in the Supreme Court should have no say in deciding the verdict; only the presiding judge should rule on the case.
How this Wang Linqing case has unfolded is altogether too comical, causing web punsters to have a field day with the topic.
One netizen summarized it thusly: “Wang Linqing steals files. Wang Linqing reports to superior that the files have been stolen. The superior does not investigate or ask. Wang Linqing reports to the public that the files have been stolen. Only then does the big boss investigate. The investigation result: the files were stolen by Wang Linqing. ”
Such a loophole-ridden story is sure to garner the ridicule of netizens. The question is, why didn’t authorities make the story more believable? The main issue is that the original case had already been exposed by the media. Moreover, Wang himself disclosed some details to the public. It was already impossible for the authorities to compile a rational story from the beginning.
The ultimate result of having Wang take the fall also revealed that Chinese authorities would never allow a bottom-up disclosure from within the Party system. Neither is anyone allowed to expose internal scandals to the public.
Even in corruption cases involving officials, rarely does the whistleblower escape unscathed. Instead, they are often punished themselves.
By punishing Wang, this also has the effect of squashing any expectations the outside world may have for China to achieve true judicial independence. Perhaps, this was the Party’s true motive in the end.
This article has been updated to clarify the nature of the investigation and the Chinese supreme court’s power.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.