Peking party boss is jailed for corruption

IN THE most politically-charged corruption case in China, the former Peking Communist party boss was sentenced yesterday to 16 years in jail.

Chen Xitong, by far the most senior official to be punished in China's five-year campaign against graft, was found guilty of embezzlement, accepting gifts, and dereliction of duty.

Mr Chen, "in pursuit of a corrupt and decadent life", had diverted public funds to build "two luxurious villas" where he indulged in "extravagant wining, dining and personal entertainment ... and pleasure-seeking", the verdict said.

Previous reports have stated Mr Chen's illicit assets aspounds 24m in cash plus a string of villas and apartments, which he liberally provided to relatives, mistresses and friends. Yesterday's judgment mentioned only a few offences, presumably because a full account might prove too explosive.

The judges found that between 1991 and 1994 he had misappropriated 22 gifts, valued at 555,000 yuan (pounds 42,000) which had been given by un-named "foreign parties". "Among these items were eight gold and silver products, six deluxe watches, four expensive pens, three cameras and one video camera," said the official court report. Total spending on the villas amounted to 38.68m yuan (pounds 3m). Lower-ranking officials have been executed for far less.

The scandal erupted more than three years ago, when one of the city's deputy mayors, Wang Baosen, committed suicide as the corruption investigation closed in. The court judgment said Mr Chen "conspired" with Mr Wang to embezzle funds for the villas.

The political sensitivity of the case left ordinary Pekingers sceptical over whether 68-year-old Mr Chen would ever receive serious punishment. As well as having powerful friends, his case posed questions about other senior officials who had their fingers in the pie. Zhang Siqing, China's procurator-general, said that between 1993-97 some 181,873 officials were prosecuted for embezzlement, bribery and dereliction of duty. But this included only 265 at or above prefecture level, though it is the senior cadres who have greatest opportunity for graft.

Mr Chen is one of the most unpopular politicians in the capital, because of his zealous support in June 1989 for the bloody shooting of the pro-democracy demonstrators.

Mr Liu, 44, a driver, said: "The sentence should have come earlier. People do not like him, and now the result comes we feel relieved."

An old man added: "In Mao's time, if you committed corruption, you died. But now it is different and there is so much corruption."

Mr Chen's trial took place, in camera, on 20 July.

In his 12 years as mayor and then party secretary for Peking, he presided over a top-level municipal administration which is believed to have siphoned off nearly 18bn yuan (pounds 1.4bn). The scale of the corruption, which included huge kick-backs from Peking's building programme in the early 1990s, was such that it must have been obvious to central government. But it was not until April 1995 that Mr Chen was suddenly sacked as Peking party chief, in a move which was as much about politics as crime.

As a Politburo member, Mr Chen was well-positioned among the hardline faction in the top leadership, and was seen as an opponent of President Jiang Zemin. His removal in 1995 was useful to Mr Jiang, as a popular measure to show the country that the government was serious about tackling corruption, and as a way of asserting the president's political clout.

Yesterday's long sentence, which came just three weeks after Mr Chen was formally charged, suggests that President Jiang is feeling confident. The President also knows the sentence will please ordinary Chinese.

The conviction by the Peking Municipal Higher People's Court was announced yesterday morning on national television, soon after the verdict. There is no way of knowing whether Mr Chen will actually serve his time in prison, or live fairly comfortably under house arrest.

The sentence comprised 13 years' imprisonment for corruption and four years for dereliction of duty. The total term to be served was 16 years, however. The judge also ordered that the former party boss's bribes should be confiscated. Mr Chen has 10 days to appeal, but it is a foregone conclusion that such a move would not succeed.

The sentence was harsher than had been expected for Mr Chen, but lenient compared with the thousands who have been executed for far less serious economic crimes in the anti-graft crackdown. Seniorpoliticians and ordinary Chinese are not equal before the law, even when a political point is being made. Another Mr Chen - Chen Zhong - for example, was executed two years ago in Sichuan province for attempting to steal VAT receipts from a tax office.

Mr Chen's sentence looks light compared with some of the 30 other Peking officials already sentenced in connection with his web of corruption; Tie Ying, the former director of the Peking Government Legal Affairs Office, which approved business licences and permits, was jailed for 15 years for accepting 430,000 yuan (pounds 32,000) in bribes.

Mr Chen's nearest and dearest profited hugely from their connections. His son, Chen Xiaotong, was jailed for 12 years last year for accepting bribes and "diverting public funds", while his mistress, He Ping, escaped abroad after receiving a reported pounds 3m from Mr Chen.

Mr Chen was purged from the party last autumn, leaving China's more sensational newspapers freer to speculate about the case. The government permitted such revelations, but drew the line at a novel, The Wrath of Heaven, which was a thinly disguised run-down of the Chen Xitong story.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Voices
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesHagel and Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
News
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
News
Jermain Defoe got loads of custard
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C#.NET Server Side Developer (C#, XML, WCF, Unit Testing,SQL)

£30000 - £40000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: C#.NET ...

Junior Database developer (SQL, T-SQL, Excel, SSRS)

£20000 - £30000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Junior D...

Helpdesk Team Leader / Manager

£45000 per annum + pension,medical: Ashdown Group: A successful & reputable gl...

IT Systems Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition
Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born