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Chongqing’s Mafias Expose Grave Woes in China’s Legal Apparatus

Posted by Author on November 5, 2009

Willy Lam, China Brief, James Town Foundation, November 4, 2009 –

The ongoing campaign against triads, or Chinese-style mafias, in the west-China metropolis of Chongqing is the largest such operation since 1949. Yet what renders this so-called “anti-triad tornado” (fanhei fengbao) so disturbing is not simply that close to 3,000 big-time criminals have been nabbed by authorities, the Chongqing disaster has laid bare the full extent of the collusion between organized crime on the one hand, and senior officers in the police and judiciary on the other. Even more shocking is the fact that what the local media calls “dark and evil forces” have become so entrenched and prevalent in this megacity of 34 million people that it required a directive from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Politburo Standing Committee—the highest level decision-making body in the state—before sufficient law-enforcement resources could be mobilized to combat the well-heeled—and well-connected—syndicates (Guangzhou Daily [Guangzhou], October 30; The Associated Press, October 21; Apple Daily [Hong Kong] August 14).

The scale of Chongqing’s triad operations can be gleaned from the fact that 1.7 billion yuan ($250 million) of ill-gotten gains have so far been uncovered from 24 crime bosses. According to the official China News Service, triads have infiltrated business sectors including finance, transport, construction and engineering, entertainment, restaurants and retailing. More than 200 mid-to-high-ranking officials in the Chongqing police and judicial departments are under investigation for sheltering or otherwise abetting the felons (People’s Daily, October 24; Ming Pao [Hong Kong] October 25). These bad apples include the former head of the Chongqing Judicial Bureau Wen Qiang and the former deputy-head of the Chongqing Public Security Bureau, Peng Changjian. Wen, who is also a former police chief, has admitted to taking bribes and gifts totaling nearly 100 million yuan ($14.6 million). The corrupt cadre even threatened interrogators that he would spill the beans on a number of more senior officials if he were given the death sentence. “If you sentence me to death,” he reportedly said. “I’ll reveal everything—then everybody will die together!” (Chongqing Evening News, October 25; Global Times [Beijing], October 20).

While Wen might have been bluffing, there is now no denying that the triads have been operating in Chongqing for more than two decades—and that they had, for reasons that are coming to light, been tolerated by the municipality’s top party and government leaders. Most of the 24 triad chieftains started their careers in Chongqing, and they have been expanding their empires in the metropolis since the early 1990s. These billionaire thugs include Li Qiang, a well-known business tycoon in transportation and real estate who had been repeatedly appointed a delegate to the Chongqing People’s Congress. Another criminal, Xie Caiping, had run underground casinos—a few of them in five-star downtown hotels—in Chongqing for years (Chongqing Evening News, October 24; China News Service, October 31). Since Chongqing gained the status of a muncipilatiy (with the same “administrative ranking” as Beijing and Shanghai) in 1997, its party secretaries have included such luminaries as He Guoqiang (now member of the Politburo Standing Committee in charge of fighting corruption) and Wang Yang (Politburo member and Party Secretary of Guangdong). Current party secretary Bo Xilai, who is also a Politburo member, has been in charge of Chongqing for two years. It is well-nigh impossible that He, Wang and Bo had not been knowledgeable about the triad problems in Chongqing (Apple Daily, October 27; Chongqing Evening News, October 27). The officials’ complicit attitude begs the question, why did the authorities wait until early summer before taking action? …… (more from James Town Foundation)

One Response to “Chongqing’s Mafias Expose Grave Woes in China’s Legal Apparatus”

  1. Interesting story you got here. It would be great to read a bit more about that matter.

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