Global Policy Forum

China Executes Senior Official for Graft


By Jeremy Page

March 29, 2000

China executed a former vice provincial governor Wednesday for taking more than $650,000 in bribes, the most senior official to be executed in 50 years of Communist rule, the official Xinhua news agency said. The execution of Hu Changqing, former vice governor of the central province of Jiangxi, came just three days after Premier Zhu Rongji pledged unremitting efforts to fight graft as the annual parliament session opened under the shadow of a series of high-level corruption scandals.

``All major cases, no matter which department or who is involved, must be thoroughly investigated and corrupt officials must be severely punished,'' Zhu told the National People's Congress (NPC) Sunday. The People's Daily -- newspaper of the Communist Party -- would carry a commentary Thursday saying the execution proved no one was above the law, Xinhua said. ``For such a flagrant criminal, only the death penalty is sufficient to safeguard national law, satisfy popular indignation, rectify the party work style, and fight against corruption,'' Xinhua quoted the commentary as saying.

Hu was sentenced to death in February by a court in Nanchang, capital of Jiangxi, and Xinhua said the Supreme People's Court had rejected his appeal Tuesday. Xinhua did not say how he was put to death but executions in China are usually carried out with a single bullet to the back of the head or lethal injection.

Watches And Diamond Rings

In his term as vice governor and as deputy director of the State Bureau of Religious Affairs from May 1995 to August 1999, Hu accepted bribes of 5.44 million yuan ($657,200), Xinhua said. Hu had also given bribes of 80,000 yuan and could not explain where the money came from to buy property in his name worth 1.61 billion yuan, it said. State media have said Hu accepted money and gifts, including watches and diamond rings, to approve construction projects, help resolve bank loans, obtain business licenses and help people move to Hong Kong.

``The severe punishment of Hu Changqing according to law serves as a caution to the party's leading members, a warning to those who have still failed to correct their wrongdoing, and an encouragement to the general public,'' the People's Daily said. ``It tells us that in socialist China there is no special citizen in the eyes of the law and no special party member in the eyes of party discipline,'' it said. ``No one can escape the punishment of the law if he has broken the law, no matter how high his position or how powerful he is.''

Beijing Warns Officials

Analysts said Hu's execution was a clear warning to officials after a string of major corruption scandals, including China's biggest smuggling case in five decades. That scandal, centered on the southeastern port of Xiamen, has implicated close to 200 people, including the wife of Jia Qinglin, one of the 22 members of the Communist Party's powerful Politburo and a close ally of President Jiang Zemin. Jia's wife has denied any involvement.

``They had to send a message that nobody is safe despite the fact that everyone knows Jia Qinglin is safe,'' said a Western diplomat. ``People in the street aren't silly. They know what's happening.'' Last year, Beijing's disgraced mayor Chen Xitong became the most senior Communist Party official to be jailed for corruption since the party took power in 1949. He was sentenced to 16 years in prison, but official sources say Chen has since been released on medical parole.

China put the anti-corruption drive in the spotlight on the eve of the opening of the NPC's 11-day session by announcing NPC vice chairman Cheng Kejie was the subject of a graft probe. Beijing sees corruption as a threat to the Communist Party's monopoly on power and to public support for Zhu's efforts to overhaul the socialist economy. Zhu told the NPC said anti-graft efforts were insufficient. ``Government officials travel, entertain and dine in a luxurious style at public expense in the name of all sorts of invented activities such as 'festival' celebrations, ribbon-cutting ceremonies and standards inspections,'' he said. ``This wastes money and manpower and arouses the indignation of the people. Such practices must be resolutely stopped.''


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