Zhou Aides Fall As Corruption Crackdown Reaches Abroad
On Monday, prosecutors in Hubei charged Wang Yongchun, a former executive at China National Petroleum Corporation and an aide of fallen security czar Zhou Yongkang, with graft and abuse of power. Wang is the latest among dozens of senior oil executives and government officials to be caught in President Xi Jinping’s ongoing anti-corruption campaign. Ben Blanchard at Reuters reports:
Wang Yongchun was a deputy general manager of China’s biggest oil company, China National Petroleum Corporation, the parent of PetroChina, until he became caught up in a graft probe last year.
Several senior CNPC executives have already been put under investigation in a far-reaching corruption crackdown, among them former chairman Jiang Jiemin, who was formally charged last week.
In a statement, China’s top prosecutor said that Wang was suspected of taking a large amount of bribes and being unable to explain a vast chunk of his wealth.
He also abused his power while working in the state-run energy sector, causing it serious losses, the statement added. [Source]
Guo Yongxiang, another of Zhou Yongkang’s former aides and a member of the petroleum faction, will also face trial in Hubei for corruption-related charges. Keira Lu Huang at South China Morning Post reports:
Another Zhou associate, former Sichuan deputy governor Guo Yongxiang , will be tried in the Yichang Intermediate People’s Court for allegedly taking bribes and not being able account for assets.
In 2000, a year after Zhou became Sichuan’s party chief, Guo was made deputy secretary general of the provincial party committee.
Xinhua earlier described Wang and Guo as members of the “oil faction” and the “secretary faction”, identifying factions within the party for the first time since President Xi Jinping took power. [Source]
Zhou Yongkang himself will soon face open trial for corruption and other offenses, including possible political plotting suggested in a recent work report by the Supreme People’s Court.
As Xi’s anti-corruption campaign continues at home, authorities in Beijing are also pursuing officials who have fled abroad. A special task force dubbed Operation Fox Hunt was recently launched by the Ministry of Public Security to pursue and repatriate corrupt officials living overseas. Cary Huang at South China Morning Post reports:
The Ministry of Public Security launched “Operation Fox Hunt” last year to track down fleeing officials and since then more than 500 fugitives with over 3 billion yuan (HK$3.8 billion) in assets offshore have been returned to China, according to the authorities.
In an article posted on its website on Tuesday, the party’s internal graft watchdog, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, said the international operation was led by the Fugitive Repatriation and Asset Recovery Office, comprising officials from the CCDI, the judiciary and prosecutors, the ministries of foreign affairs, public security, state security and justice, and the People’s Bank of China.
One of the operation’s biggest problems is tracking down fugitives in the United States, Australia and Canada, which are attractive destinations for fleeing officials because they do not have extradition treaties with China.
The article said that in some cases China would send agents to persuade fugitives to end their exile, but in others it would provide evidence of criminal activity to host countries to repatriate them for illegal immigration directly or via a third country. The office also gave evidence so that host countries could prosecute the fugitives under local laws, the article said. [Source]
A senior Chinese official claimed last year that such efforts have been hampered by Western “prejudice and bias” against China. At The Diplomat, Shannon Tiezzi reports that Wang Qishan, the head of the Communist Party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, is expected to visit the United States this year to garner US cooperation on the issue of extraditing corrupt fugitives.
When Xi Jinping and company came to power in late 2012, Wang joined the all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee. He also moved from vice premier to the head of the CCDI, where he was tasked with serving as the point man in Xi’s anti-corruption campaign. Wang’s clean reputation and personal “firefighting” abilities are seen as crucial for the success of the anti-corruption drive. Now China is banking on his personal diplomatic skills and relationships in Washington to extend the campaign to the U.S.
[…] China is particularly concerned about getting more help from Washington. Last August, a Chinese official said that the U.S. is the “top destination for Chinese fugitives,” with an estimated 150 corrupt officials now living in America. Despite this, China has had little success getting to these suspects – China Daily reports that only two “economic fugitives” have been successfully prosecuted and repatriated to China from the U.S. in the past 10 years.
China wants to change that, and has pushed for meetings specifically to discuss the problem of repatriating corrupt officials (and having their assets returned to China). Reuters reported back in February that such a meeting is set to take place in August, which would give the two sides a chance to reach a breakthrough before Xi’s September visit to the U.S. It’s unclear if Wang’s visit will be associated with those talks or will be part of a separate set of exchanges. [Source]