The Tale of the Kidnapped Princeling

Aside from the privileges they enjoy as a result of their political and business connections, Chinese “princelings” may also be well immune to the pervasive state security apparatus. John Garnaut tells a story of how Ji Pomin, son of a former vice premier, was dealt with by security forces  for his role in spreading rumors of Jiang Zemin’s death two years ago. From Foreign Policy:

Two years ago, on June 4 — the anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre and the most sensitive date in the Chinese political calendar — Ji Pomin received a text message from a high-placed friend: It said that former president Jiang Zemin had been taken to a military hospital in a critical condition. Ji fired off a coded message to hundreds of people in his address book to seek confirmation, asking: “The Supreme Old Master ascended to heaven?” Many of Ji’s politically connected friends forwarded the text to their friends, who misinterpreted the cryptic question as a statement. By June 6, overseas Chinese websites were reporting that former president Jiang Zemin was dead.

[...] A few days after Ji’s text message, he received a phone call from someone claiming to be from a parcel delivery service. They said the package was too big to fit down the lane in which he lived, so he walked to nearby Dongdan, one of Beijing’s busiest shopping areas, to collect it. Standing there, he said, in the blind spot between two security cameras outside an upmarket wedding photography store, were two burly men. They pulled a cloth hood over Ji’s head and bundled him into a car.

[...] The daylight abduction of a princeling like Ji, in downtown Beijing, shows just how delicate the subject of elite politics has become. That Ji wasn’t tortured, that he felt emboldened to speak his mind, and that his captors politely drove him back to where they found him two days later, shows the privileges afforded by his status. The secret police had originally lured him out on to the street, says Ji, so they would not disturb his then 86 year-old mother, who had joined the revolutionary struggle with his father at the age of 14 in 1938. By contrast, Ji says they ransacked the homes of several people who received his message. And a historian whose work had influenced Ji’s negative views on Jiang was reportedly arrested and convicted of subversion in May 2011.

See more on “princelings” and illegal detentions via CDT.