Local Party Official in China Ousted Over Fatal Bombing
Assembly Head Accused of Having Mistress Killed
By Edward Cody
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, July 18, 2007; A14
BEIJING, July 17 -- Duan Yihe, 61, was known in Jinan city as a serious man, a quietly efficient official at the pinnacle of a long career in local Communist Party politics.
But on Monday, the Jinan party secretary announced that Duan had been expelled from the party, fired as head of the municipal People's Congress and put under investigation for allegedly having his mistress blown up as she drove down one of the city's main streets. A policeman was reportedly arrested for organizing the car bomb on Duan's orders.
Duan's sudden descent, from model Communist cadre to philanderer and suspected murderer, caused many people to shake their heads with wonder in Jinan, the capital of Shandong province about 280 miles south of Beijing. It was a surprising example, and more extreme than most, of the corruption that has eaten away at Communist Party rule in many Chinese cities during three decades of swift economic reforms.
"I couldn't believe it when I heard the news," said a retired government official in Jinan who spoke with a caller on condition of anonymity. "How can this happen? He is on a high official level, and this has to do with an explosion. This makes his case special compared to other corruption cases."
Another Jinan resident, a gatekeeper at the city government building who identified himself only as Wu, said he was not surprised to hear that Duan had a mistress, "since it's understood among our public" that party officials often have girlfriends on the side. "But I was astonished by the explosion" he was allegedly involved in, Wu added. "It shouldn't happen to an official who is supposed to serve the people."
President Hu Jintao and the top party leadership have repeatedly identified official corruption and high living by party officials as one of the main problems facing China. Hu, who also heads the party, has warned that the spread of malfeasance could endanger the Communists' monopoly on power unless it is reined in.
Wu Guanzheng, a Politburo Standing Committee member who runs the party Discipline Inspection unit, told a class of upcoming cadres at the Party School on Monday that his inspectors will pursue corruption relentlessly, particularly among "top leaders at various government levels." The party will intensify supervision, work out "more efficient systems" to monitor members, and enforce "a healthy lifestyle for officials," he was reported as saying by the official New China News Agency.
"The punishment against Duan shows the party's firm resolution and clear attitude on strict administration of the party and the fight against corruption," said the party's official Jinan Daily newspaper. It said Duan's case was "a serious lesson" for other party members.
But Hu and his lieutenants have refused pleas, from inside as well as outside the party, to open up China's rigid one-party rule and allow countervailing centers of power, such as a genuine legislature or independent judicial system, that might be able to check misconduct within the party. Several public suggestions to this effect have emerged from party officials and academics recently in the lead-up to a key party congress this fall, only to be dismissed by the leadership.
"The excessive concentration of power can be regarded as the basic characteristic and chief root cause of trouble in our traditional political system," said the most recent call for political reform, an essay in the liberal Yanhuang Chunqiu political journal signed by Wu Min, a professor at the Shanxi Party School.
In the Communist monopoly denounced by Wu, officials such as Duan have found ways to flourish without fear of prosecution, protected by friends and colleagues in the party, government and police -- all from the same fraternity. A party secretary in Fujian province, Huang Jingao, became famous three years ago for denouncing out loud what he called "the underlying rules" under which corrupt local officials protect one another's backs. Within a year of his outburst, Huang was fired and indicted on corruption charges.
The Jinan party leader, Yang Rongzhu, said Duan for a long time had maintained his mistress, "giving her lots of money and furthering her interests for her," suggesting that financial and other irregularities had preceded the bombing, according to the Jinan Daily.
The mistress, identified by colleagues as Liu Haiping, 31, was a former waitress in the People's Congress cafeteria, who since her association with Duan had risen to become a mid-level official at the local natural resources department.
She was killed and a passing taxi driver was injured July 9 when the car she was driving exploded on Jianshe Road in downtown Jinan. A spokesman for the Jinan Public Security Bureau, Dang Yali, said the blast was still under investigation. But he confirmed that Duan's firing from the People's Congress, a municipal assembly, was connected to the explosion.
The motive for Liu's killing remains unknown. But Jinan residents speculated she was threatening to denounce Duan unless he gave her more gifts.
Caijing magazine, a Beijing publication, said on its Web site that the license plate of the car driven by Liu was issued to the Public Security Bureau, raising suspicions the vehicle may have been lent to her through Duan's influence. Dang declined to comment on the license plate or the role of Chen Zhi, the policeman reportedly arrested in connection with the bombing.
"He is not here anymore," said a man at the Public Security Bureau who was asked to transfer a telephone call to Chen's extension.
Researcher Li Jie contributed to this report.
Secrets To Die For
July 19, 2007: A Google Earth user, checking areas believed to contain Chinese naval bases (Chinese language message boards and chat rooms, in China and elsewhere, are good sources of these kinds of leads), found an excellent image of the first of the Type 094 SLBM (Ballistic Missile carrying nuclear subs) boats. In response, China repeated warnings to its citizens that geographic and military information about China is a state secret, and you can go to prison if found cooperating with foreigners who are collecting this kind of information. China monitors Internet activity inside China and, increasingly, outside China as well (especially if it is in Chinese and deals with politics or military matters.)
July 18, 2007: Thirty Thai Special Forces troops have come to China to train with their Chinese counterparts. Thailand is currently run by a military committee, which deposed the elected government last year. The Thai generals have reached out to their fellow dictators in China.
July 16, 2007: Chinese military commanders have felt compelled to announce new measures to assure the quality of food served to its 2.3 million troops. The rash of food safety scandals lately has caused numerous rumors to break out in the military. There have been cases in the past of corrupt officers substituting cheaper, but tainted, food, for the wholesome stuff. New army regulations call for more inspections and higher standards of hygiene in military kitchens.
July 14, 2007: China is becoming increasingly aggressive against Falungong members outside China. Falungong is a religious movement that demonstrated against government restrictions, and triggered a massive government effort to destroy the movement. This is partly because, in Chinese history, there have been many cases where similar religious movements triggered widespread rebellion against the government. What China is doing now is using diplomatic pressure, especially against small and poor nations, to expel or suppress Falungong activity in their country (usually by Chinese migrants or tourists.)
July 11, 2007: The former director of Chinas Food and Drug Regulatory Agency was executed for corruption. The official had taken nearly a million dollars in bribes to allow manufacture and distribution of untested new drugs. People died as a result. China rarely executes officials this senior. But the rule is that, if a corrupt officials gets enough bad press for himself, and the government, he will be punished more severely.
July 9, 2007: Now that Taiwan has overcome years of opposition in its own parliament, and ordered a dozen more U.S. P-3C maritime patrol aircraft, Taiwanese air force officers are in the United States to discuss details of buying 66 more F-16 fighters and 30 AH-64 helicopter gunships.
July 2, 2007: Recent revelations of widespread corruption in the food processing and pharmaceutical industries has led China to drop its long time rule that only Communist Party members can be appointed to senior government jobs. Now, the best qualified, and least likely to be corrupted, officials are being given jobs regulating the food processing and pharmaceutical industries. At least one of these officials is not a Party member.
June 30, 2007: China has set up an experimental "Peace Corps" for Africa. So far, 300 volunteers (selected from over 10,000 applicants) underwent three months of training, and then went to Africa to teach simple, but more advances, Chinese farming methods, as well as medical and public health procedures, and how to speak Chinese. The volunteers get round trip air fare, and a small monthly payment to help defray the cost of food and lodging. Volunteers are expected to forge links with Africans, gain knowledge of Africa, and improve China's image at a grass roots level.
June 28, 2007: There are several hundred violent demonstrations and clashes with the police each day in China, the result of growing anger and frustration at the corruption of government officials. Most of the culprits are identified as members of the Communist Party, although many joined simply to get ahead in their government career. The unrest is increasing, and senior officials are getting nervous about their inability to reverse the trends (unrest and corruption.)