JIANG WEIPING is a veteran journalist currently jailed on charges of “revealing state secrets” after pushing the boundaries of censorship and aggressively reporting on the taboo subject of official graft in China’s industrial northeast region. He is former Dalian bureau chief for the newspaper Wen Hui Bao and reporter for the state news agency Xinhua. Jiang was detained in December 2000 after writing a series of articles exposing government corruption for the Hong Kong tabloid Front-Line. Jiang was sentenced to nine years in prison following a secret trial held on September 5, 2001.
Jiang’s reporting uncovered several corruption scandals involving high-level officials, including such well-connected leaders as Bo Xilai, governor of Liaoning province and son of Communist Party elder Bo Yibo. Jiang also revealed that the vice mayor of Shenyang gambled away 30 million yuan (US$3 million) of public funds, and he reported that the mayor of Daqing used state money to buy apartments for each of his 29 mistresses.
Though Chinese government leaders have urged journalists to help fight corruption, few legal protections exist for reporters who do so. Courageous investigative journalists like Jiang who work independently to expose official impropriety risk harassment and imprisonment. According to CPJ records, at least 25 journalists are imprisoned in China, more than any other country in the world.
Special Anti-Corruption Edition
Former Daqing Mayor Qian Dihua Arrested: Richest Man in the Area Who Kept 29 Mistresses
*pen name for Jiang Weiping
Recently, a hot news story erupted in Daqing City, Helongjiang Province. In the city, which became world famous in the 1960s for the oil worker “Ironman” Wang, former mayor Qian Dihua, a man surnamed Wu who is deputy secretary of the Daqing City Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, and many members of the committee and other high-level government officials were arrested on suspicion of economic and business crimes. The origin and development of the whole case is legendary and shocking.
The killing of Daqing Lianyi shareholding company president
On June 5 this year, the Chinese stock market index showed that the lowest and highest stock prices of Daqing Lianyi were, respectively, 9.08 and 9.54 yuan. But in reality, the company had a weak economic foundation and no economic returns, except the beautiful label of a “state-run enterprise.”
Some of the members of the city’s Party Committee and high-level government officials were enthusiastic about having the stock listed. On one hand, they wanted to pursue the development of the city’s economy through large-scale financing to make the state-run enterprises, whose economic returns are hindered by a backward system, more profitable. On the other hand, they also wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to make bogus listings for their own benefit. In order to ingratiate himself to higher officials, Lianyi’s chairman of the board, a man with the surname Zhang, gave each of more than 60 cadres at or above the level of department head of the city Party Committee and the city government a certain amount of stock as a gift, with several thousand yuan being the lowest and tens of thousands of yuan the highest amount. Thus, when the stocks began trading in Shanghai, the officials all became rich overnight from the IPO stocks that were given to them just for their official titles. “The IPO price for each stock was one yuan, but now the highest trading price is over 20 yuan and the lowest price is about 10 yuan,” a Daqing source familiar with the matter disclosed. “By making use of the opportunity to issue stock to take and offer bribes openly, and by putting state assets and investors’ hard-earned money into the pockets of local officials, Zhang has helped them profit from other people’s labor.”
However, the strange thing was that Zhang, formerly a well-connected and respected person, was shot and seriously wounded this spring in the city. This probably happened because either Zhang did not make equal offers of stocks to officials, or the officials who received the bribes bit the hand that fed them, fearing that their bribery would be exposed. After receiving emergency treatment, Zhang was about to leave the hospital after narrowly escaping death several times during his recovery. But then at about 2 a.m. on the day before Zhang was to leave the hospital, two men claiming to be his close friends visited him and comforted him with nice words. They seemed to have a good talk. However, soon after the two men left the hospital, Zhang’s illness unexpectedly worsened dramatically, and he died of unknown causes at 4 a.m. that morning. Police began investigating the case immediately but gave up because of a lack of evidence.
It’s not the first time for hired killers
It is said that with prosperity comes prostitution. This is true in the city of Daqing. Officials, with the power to handle the wholesale and retail marketing of petroleum, get rich by trading their power for money. In the “red-light district” on Jingliu Street, there are not only massage girls offering the disguise of shampooing and foot-bathing services while openly soliciting guests on the street, but also a notorious gigolo joint named “Ran Qing Sui Yue” (Years of Burning Passions), a place where rich ladies come for sexual pleasure. Here, those young, handsome, Northeastern men, dressed in Western-style clothes, have become the “Little Tiger Team” much sought and favored by those lonely city women.
In such a thriving place filled with prostitutes, public security has become a challenge. As a result of the unequal distribution of wealth, serious crimes such as murder, robbery, kidnapping, and blackmail continue to take place. According to well-informed sources, during the last three years, dozens of murders occurred in Daqing, with none of the cases solved. A shooting that shook the city two years ago is very similar to that of the Lianyi chairman. Gunmen shot the general manager of a certain company in front of his residence on his way home from work. The manager, while being rushed to the hospital, was killed on the way by three additional shots. The case has not yet been solved.
Another official, the financial section head of Daqing Petroleum Administration Bureau, who was afraid of being persecuted, committed suicide by jumping off a building after hearing unconfirmed reports that his business practices would be audited. After his death, several million yuan were found at his home, with some 100-yuan bills found at the bottom of flowerpots on the balcony. Even law enforcement officials were very surprised by this case. This and other similar cases were all closed without having been solved.
President’s murder uncovers more than 60 corrupt officials
Unexpectedly, the public security personnel found a related case during the investigation: While investigating Zhang’s business account, they found that more than 60 cadres, at or above the level of department heads of the city Party Committee and the city government, were involved in fraudulent Lianyi stocks. Former mayor Qian Dihua, Deputy Party Secretary Wu, and others collaborated with Zhang in the stock embezzlement and bribery.
Elderly mayor keeps 29 mistresses
“It is obvious how much money the mayor has since he was able to keep 29 mistresses, buy more than 20 apartments and several town cars, and pay a large amount for their living expenses,” someone close to Qian disclosed. “This kind of tragedy can only happen in such a small city like Daqing, which is lacking in a supervisory and regulatory mechanisms, and where the power of one man could viciously grow to such a degree that only his words count!”
Local officials are trying to block the news, so it is still not known for sure how much money Qian Dihua and other corrupted officials embezzled during their terms of office. But from the fact that he kept mistresses, it can be easily reckoned that the figure must be astronomical.
Liu Liying moving into Building No. 9
Following the death of Mr. Zhang, which shed light on Mayor Qian’s economic fraud and sexual scandals, Liu Liying, deputy secretary of the Chinese Communist Party Central Commission for Discipline, came north to Heilongjiang with her team and stayed at Building No. 9. Anyone called for a meeting with Ms. Liu would be scared to death, for she is well known as the present-day “Female Baogong,” or the Just and Merciless Judge.
Well-informed sources said that Ms. Liu, leading an army of strong-minded and capable people from the Central Disciplinary Commission, the Ministry of Public Security, and the Ministry of State Security, came to Daqing after reading through reports from the Daqing police. Therefore, with their own notorious deeds in mind, Mayor Qian and a number of high-ranking local officials realized how bad a situation they were facing. They knew that Ms. Liu was somebody who would only come with good reason or would not come at all. And they shuddered when they imagined themselves falling into the positions of those who had been sentenced recently, such as Zhu Shengwen, former deputy executive mayor of Harbin City, and Wang Shubin, former party secretary of Qiqihar City.
But Mayor Qian, having weaved a widespread network of connections, would not give up without a final gamble. He and his son secretly planned to transfer a huge amount of money from their home to a certain bank in Jiamusi City.
Well-informed sources disclosed that, right after she came with her special task force, Liu Liying first blanket-swept all the corrupted officials around Qian. She didn’t show her hand until she acquired substantial evidence of Qian’s wrongdoing.
What Qian never imagined was that Liu used the world’s most advanced, state-of-the-art eavesdropping equipment. She therefore knew every word Qian and his family said about transferring the huge amounts of illicit money after the first subpoena. Later, Qian and the 58-year-old deputy party secretary Wu, were arrested nearly at the same time and put in a Shijiazhuang prison, in Hebei Province, far away from Daqing.
What awaits the incumbents?
According to sources in Daqing, Yang Xin and many officials in the city government were more or less involved in the “Lianyi stock scandal” by trading stock in violation of the law and by making a profit through abuse of power. According to the sources, however, they complained that they were fooled because Zhang did not tell them the whole truth. They therefore could be cleared if they give up their shares and repay the money.
But according to a different source, the Lianyi case involved Wang Xianmin, whose escape was sheer luck because a certain high official in the Central Party Committee tried every means to protect him. However, another Heilongjiang insider, who is very familiar with the operations inside the Chinese Communist Party, said that Yang Xin and others were safe only because Liu Liying and her team followed the principle of “investigating and punishing key people, attacking the difficult ones, and protecting the hotspot.” Liu let Yang and others alone for the time being because she did not want to deal with too many people at the same time, so that the city’s economy and the morale among officials would not be dampened. But they would be dealt with later.
Nevertheless, Daqing’s Qian Dihua belongs to the third wave of high-ranking local officials in Heilongjiang who were thrown in prison for committing economic crimes, following former Harbin deputy mayor Zhu Shengwen and former Qiqihar party secretary Wang Shubin. Once the shady deals are exposed, a large group of corrupt officials will lose their vested interests. Such a situation reminds us that if a large-scale and prompt reform of the political system cannot be implemented to meet the demand of the diversified economy, it will be impossible to establish a real supervisory and regulatory mechanism. Corruption will continue, and, just like the poem says: “Not even a prairie fire can destroy the grass; it grows when the spring breeze blows.”
Lessons for Chinese Politicians from Bo Xilai and Jiang Weiping
By Zhang Weiguo (translated from Chinese by CPJ)
Politicians and journalists are two completely different professions, but the two have a very close relationship. The former use various capacities to execute power, while the latter use various methods to disseminate information and execute the power of knowledge to serve the masses. Objectively, journalists have a restrictive effect on politicians by providing public supervision, so press freedom frequently can be the chief opponent of those who abuse power. In a society ruled by law, journalists become the “fourth estate,” but in a centralized autocracy, “news” becomes propaganda and is just one part of the ruling apparatus. For example, under an autocratic, one-party system like China’s, journalists are just the mouthpieces and tools of the party, in reality nothing more than propaganda workers.
From this perspective, take the case of the Wen Hui Bao reporter Jiang Weiping. Because he revealed the corruption scandals of Bo Xilai, governor of Liaoning and a representative member of the “princelings,” Jiang was imprisoned on fabricated charges. (Recent reports indicate that Jiang has been sentenced by an “internal decision” to nine years in prison.) Measured against the professional responsibilities of a propagandist under an autocratic system, Jiang indeed overstepped his authority by “offending higher authorities” and “airing dirty laundry in public.”
The problem is that he was not willing to act merely as a mouthpiece and tool for party authorities, and so he unconsciously performed a journalist’s function–to uncover the truth and help the people execute the power of knowledge. Chinese society is experiencing a historic transformation, and Jiang Weiping, in serving the journalistic world, transformed himself from party propagandist into a news reporter, in line with the choice of historical development. Since China’s reform and opening began, a number of journalists, both old and young, have emerged, including Hu Jiwei (who termed the principle that the people’s spirit transcends that of the party) and Jiang Weiping.
The harsh way that Bo Xilai and others in the dictatorship dealt with Jiang Weiping demonstrates that the autocratic centralization of the party’s ruling apparatus is still very strong. Today’s Number One in the Communist Party, Jiang Zemin, relied on the closing of the World Economic Herald during the June 4th incident to rise to the top. Furthermore, he has a hobby of suppressing journalists–Wu Shichen and his wife, Bai Weiji and his wife, Gao Yu, and a number of other journalists were all imprisoned and sentenced under his watch.
And those below must follow the habits of those above: A few days ago at the APEC meeting, Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan followed the example and reprimanded a Taiwanese journalist. Now Bo Xilai is using his public office to condemn Jiang Weiping, not only in an attempt to do everything he can to be promoted during the 16th Party Congress but also because in the depths of his heart he hopes to follow in Jiang Zemin’s path and supersede the core of the fourth generation. The treatment of journalists by politicians like Jiang Zemin, Tang Jiaxuan, and Bo Xilai runs counter to the transformation of Chinese society. Although they try to protect their own power, public opinion and a sense of justice will soon nail them to history’s pillar of shame.
China has already experienced great changes and will continue to experience even bigger change. Clinton’s encounter with media supervision is already known throughout China. Although, like the Gang of Four prior to their downfall, Jiang Zemin traces any so called political rumors to their source, the common people will never again willingly be deceived. They have already begun to have independent choice. Although Bo Xilai is able to put Jiang Weiping in prison and even to sentence him, he also created a hero in pursuit of press freedom. Not long ago, the New Yorkbased Committee to Protect Journalists gave the International Press Freedom Award to Jiang Weiping. Contrary to his intentions, Bo Xilai’s actions helped spread news of his corruption scandals far and wide.
The future China should make a choice between Bo Xilai and Jiang Weiping: In the end, will they choose a politician like Bo Xilai, who maintains the inertia of autocratic politics, or Jiang Weiping, who advances China’s historic transformation by strengthening and perfecting the function of public opinion and supervision? Every responsible politician in China can learn a lesson from the relationship between Jiang Weiping and Bo Xilai. No matter if their only concern is avoiding the burden of a bad reputation or helping the media portray their public image, fair treatment of journalists and a conscious acceptance of public supervision is a necessary part of the job.
Zhang Weiguo used to work for the reformist Shanghai newspaper World Economic Herald and is now the editor-in-chief of New Century Net (www.ncn.org). This article was translated from the Chinese by CPJ. The original version of this article can be found on New Century Net..