6 May 2019
Zhao Zhengyong (in the picture), who was the party head of the resource-rich province of Shaanxi until March 2016 is accused of serious corruption. His arrest was announced in a one-sentence statement by enforcement agency the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) on Monday.
CCDI did not provide details of its investigations. It was obvious that his arrest was linked to the string of corruption scandals which has so far claimed eight senior Shaanxi officials.
China’s state broadcaster, CCTV, aired on Wednesday night last week a documentary on corruption in Shaanxi. In the documentary many current and former officials, with the exception of Zhao Zhengyong, repented and reflected on their failure to act on six sets of instructions from Xi to act on the illegal buildings in the province’s Qingling National Reserve. Xi’s directives were ignored until last August, when the villas and houses were all demolished. Zhao Zhengyong was not named in the show. According to Caixin, Zhao looks to have been the most senior official who dared to ignore Xi’s repeated orders and he was also allegedly involved in the controversial court case ongoing with Kaiqilai.
According to CCTV, more than 1,000 buildings, including hundreds of luxury villas, were illegally built in a nature reserve in the Qinling mountains (from around 2008). Some of the villas were decorated with antiques unearthed illegally from the nearby ancient city of Xi’an.
A dispute between the privately-held Kaiqilai Energy and the Shaanxi government-backed Xi’an Institute of Geological and Mineral Exploration over mining rights in a coal project, was referred to the supreme court in Beijing. The case was given to a senior judge named Wang Linling. When judge Wang planned to give his verdict in favour of Kaiqilai, thousands of important case files abruptly disappeared from his chambers. He reported them missing but he found his superiors strangely indifferent to their disappearance. Suspiciously, security cameras at his office weren’t working on the day the files went missing.
The case remained unreported until Cui Yongyuan, a former talk show host of CCTV, drew attention to it on his weibo last month. At first the Supreme Court denied that documents had gone missing, before admitting to the fact after Cui published extra evidence.
Following the damaging revelations, the Party’s top legal body, the Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission, said it would investigate the case in tandem with the police and the National Supervisory Commission. The ensuing investigation led to the arrest of Zhao Zhengyong.
Zhao Hongzhuan, a former senior Xi’an official who was accused of fraud in local land deals, was asked only to make apology without any further punishment on Zhao’s order. In June 2018, Zhao Hongzhuan was sentenced to 12 years in jail for taking $3.6 million of bribes and for abusing power in local land deals.
Caixin’s investigations found that Zhao put his family members into Shaanxi’s oil, coal, property and finance sectors as he installed associates in major state companies such as Shaanxi Yanchang Petroleum (Group) Co. Ltd., Shaanxi Coal and Chemical Industry Group Co. and Shaanxi Gas Group Co. Ltd. Caixin was told that illegal profits earned by the Zhao family using his power amounted $14.5 million. This was not taken up in the courts.