President Hu Jintao has already used the affair as an excuse to purge a
troublesome rival, Chen Liangyu, Shanghai's party chief.
Now the decimation of Chen's faction is serving as proof of Hu's pledge to US
President George W Bush last week to clamp down on official corruption that has
contributed to the recall of thousands of flawed Chinese products and damaged
the nation's vital export trade.
In the video confessions, Chen's accomplices cry on cue and apologize to the
people, the party and the state, all "spontaneously" reciting an ancient
saying: "One mistake and sorrow for a thousand years."
"When they were in power they did whatever they liked, but in the end
corruption makes you a prisoner, that's the message," confided an official who
saw the video.
Now the scene is set for show trials of the 11, followed, presumably, by the
ritual denunciation and punishment of Chen himself. So far he has not shared in
the public humiliation and is believed to be held in a party detention center
For the first time in such a politically sensitive case, internal party
documents have been leaked before the formal prosecutions have started. Chen's
alleged crimes, reconstructed from documents and interviews with party members,
offer a rare insight into how power and money work in the new China.
Chen, now 60, was a high-flyer who rose from the rank of an industrial manager
in Shanghai to become the city's leader and a member of the Politburo. He
attended a course at Birmingham University in England in 1992, presenting
himself as a reformer in charge of the most dynamic city in China.
It was an old-fashioned Chinese scandal of graft and girls that brought him
down a year ago. Yet the worldwide repercussions were immense. The affair
spelled the demise of the so-called "Shanghai faction", which stood for
unbridled globalization and capitalism. It boosted the left, which has turned
China toward greater social equality and more rights for workers. And it set
the stage for a fall in the Shanghai stock market that sent tremors around the
globe this year.
In July 2006 the central committee ordered investigators to look into
allegations of corruption involving the Shanghai social-security fund, the
guardian of pensions and benefits for millions of citizens.
The disciplinary inspection group has been dreaded since the days when the
Maoists employed it to destroy their critics. It has unequaled powers to detain
officials and interrogate witnesses.
Its agents discovered that almost one-third of the social-security funds had
been lent to an obscure company run by an entrepreneur named Zhang Rongkun. No
doubt convinced by their methods of persuasion, Zhang led the investigators to
the men at the core of the conspiracy.
One was Qin Yu, secretary to the party chief. The other was Zhu Junyi, head of
the social-security fund, who would later confess in the video: "Everybody
knows that if you don't use power when you have it, it will expire and be
These connections smoothed the way in 2002 for Zhang's investment company to
buy 99% of the shares in a lucrative state-owned toll-bridge and -highway
Then Zhang audaciously used this asset as security for a loan of almost $1
million from the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China. He used the money to
acquire more toll rights around Shanghai until he controlled more than 100
miles (160 kilometers) of road, including the route to the city's Formula One
"My heavens," said a Shanghai party official, "this millionaire Zhang Rongkun
was created by government capital. This kind of magic only happens in China."
As his political patrons prospered, the youthful Zhang was rewarded with seats
on influential party committees. But there was a worm in the bud. Her name was
Lu Jiali. She ran a modeling agency and, like many Chinese, was fascinated by
new technology. In her case this meant miniature video cameras.
Lu's agency provided girls to entertain city officials. They favored a refuge
in the leafy suburbs of Shanghai where Mao had erected a 1950s guesthouse
tactfully screened from the masses by lush gardens and trees.
Nobody seems to know why Lu risked making videos of the powerful men who
succumbed to the charms of her employees. But they included Qin and Zhu.
Connoisseurs of Chinese intrigue are likely to conclude that spies for their
political rivals must have engineered the whole thing.
The videos fell into the hands of the disciplinary inspection group, which
subsequently arrested Lu and used the evidence to link her clients to the plot.
"Why did I get involved?" said the secretary, according to an official who saw
his video confession. "Because I worked 16 hours a day and my salary was just a
few thousand yuan. So I lost balance in my heart. Compare this with private
bosses who have millions in their wallets and are feasting, playing and
enjoying themselves all the time. This is unfair."
Municipal corruption went far beyond one deal, according to an internal report
on August 2 by the party's disciplinary inspection committee, which was
It said Chen took bribes to approve projects, to sell city land to his cronies
and to channel state funds in complex deals in return for investments in Hong
Kong and well-paid sinecures for his relatives.
The party report accused Chen of "exploiting his power for sexual favors".
Another internal report detailed claims that he kept 10 girlfriends and even
brought his mistresses home, ignoring the shame of his wife, said official
investigators, who seized $40 million from his bank accounts, according to
Justice, Chinese style, may be orchestrated to coincide with Hu's presentation
of a cleaned-up "harmonious society" at the party's 17th congress, which will
open next month.
Felled by 11 Mistresses
In another case, a corrupt senior Chinese official was denounced by his 11
mistresses after some of their husbands were sentenced to death for graft,
state media reported last week.
"Second wives" are common among government officials and businessmen in China
and are often blamed for driving men to seek money through bribes or other
abuses of power.
Pang Jiayu, 63, former deputy head of the provincial political advisory body in
the northwestern province of Shaanxi, was sacked and expelled from the
Communist Party for graft.
"Pang did not expect that he would be brought down by his own 11 mistresses,"
the official People's Daily said in a report carried on its website.
Pang, who was also Communist Party boss of Baoji city, had lured several women,
mostly "pretty and young" wives of his subordinates, to be his mistresses, it
He helped them "make big money" by assigning them or their husbands huge
government or other financial projects, it said.
In one water-diversion project in which Pang's wife and mistresses were
involved, water pipes exploded and collapsed only half a year after completion,
The mistresses decided to denounce Pang to the party after some of their
husbands were sentenced to death for graft in cases related to him.
The party's discipline inspection commission said in July that it would deal
with the case severely.
"What awaits Pang Jiayu is severe punishment," the report said.
Chinese media say 90% of the country's most senior officials punished for
"serious" graft in the past five years had kept mistresses.
Top leaders have warned that the level of official corruption is so serious
that it could threaten the party's continuing rule.
Senior Lawmaker Executed for Killing Mistress
recent story by Asian Sex Gazette, we reported that a senior lawmaker
and his accomplice, a local policeman, were executed in Jinan on September 5
for killing the official's young mistress with a car bomb.
Duan Yihe, 61, former chairman of the Standing Committee of the Municipal
People's Congress of Jinan, capital of Shandong province in eastern China, was
convicted of murder, along with policeman Chen Zhi, also his nephew-in-law, in
Duan was also convicted guilty for taking bribes and asking for money with a
total value of 1.69 million yuan ($223,800). He was also unable to explain the
sources of another 1.3 million yuan ($176,000) in assets, which was beyond his
reasonable income level, according to the country's Supreme People's Court,
which approved the execution.
Another accomplice, Chen Changbing, boss of a local car-repair plant, was
sentenced to life in prison for helping Chen Zhi to plant the bomb in the car
of Liu Haiping, Duan's mistress.
The three defendants appealed against the original verdicts but China's Supreme
Court upheld the original sentences, saying the car-bombing crime was extremely
brutal and had seriously harmed society.
Duan, 61, had maintained an intimate relationship with Liu, a divorced woman 30
years his junior, since 2000, buying her a house and arranging jobs for many of
However, he later longed to end the relationship after gradually growing tired
of Liu, who repeatedly asked for money, demanded he divorce his wife to marry
her, and even threatened to report him to the prosecuting authorities.
Duan concocted a plan with his nephew-in-law to cause a traffic accident to
make her "lose her ability to think", the court heard. Duan claimed it was
Chen's error that killed Liu.
At about 5pm on July 9, Chen Zhi and Chen Changbing planted a home-made bomb in
Liu's car and detonated the device 30 minutes later by remote control as she
was driving. Liu died instantly and two passers-by were injured.
Duan was arrested on July 16. He was expelled from the Communist Party and
removed from party posts soon after the case was exposed.
Why the Crackdown?
Does sex mean shame in Chinese politics? Only if you get caught. Mao Zedong is
now known to have kept a bevy of dancing girls, so there's nothing new in that.
But mistresses equal money in China, so an official with a lurid love life is
suspected of earning more than his meager salary.
Why is there a crackdown on corruption now? It's all about politics. There has
been a shift to the left. Wealth is rising but inequality between rich and poor
has become a poisonous issue for the Communist Party, which needs to defuse
anger over corruption in high places.
Who is behind it? President Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao, his premier. They have
won over party leftists with a plan for a "harmonious society".
How are the targets selected? Once again, it's all about politics. The Shanghai
purge brought down a faction that had challenged Hu's and Wen's direction for
China. First a secret party investigation will be held. If the case is handed
over to public prosecutors, a show trial usually follows. Few, if any, are
acquitted. In July Zheng Xiaoyu, former head of China's food and drug safety
agency, was executed for taking bribes.
Will anything really change? Probably not. Mao eradicated China's corruption
for a period after the revolution but almost destroyed the economy. Today's
rewards of power are too tempting for many who lived through such hardship.
Asian Sex Gazette and Agencies