Monday, August 16, 2004

So, finally, we have a sad, but expected, ending to the Huang Jingao affair. As many of you know, Huang Jingao, a county chief from Fujian, wrote a letter to the People's Daily on the 13th detailing the corruption and, more important, the official tolerance of it in Fujian. After the letter was posted for one day, the Central Propaganda Department ordered the RMRB to remove it. So, what's going on here? Does this have to do with the Jiang-Hu-Wen struggle? Of course, I would say yes, but I am biased.

Let's look at the evidence here. It seems that this is a perfect example of a provincial level struggle festering up to the central level. Song Defu, a long-time Hu Jintao protege from their days in the CYL, was party secretary of the Fujian government between 2001 and 2003. During the period under discussion, from 2002 to 2003, Song Defu served as provincial party secretary, but Huang's immediate superior, the party secretary of Fuzhou city, was (is) He Lifeng, who has close ties with Fujian's previous party secretary, Xi Jinping. Several unofficial sources also suggest that He Lifeng is extremely corrupt, with a vast network of supporters in the region. This might be behind the "resistance" faced by Huang all along. In the letter, Huang recounts an event on 12/02 when a special investigation committee organized by the Fuzhou City Committee determined that there was only 3 million in questionable funds, where as Huang estimates that the amount to be hundreds of millions. Despite likely resistance from He Lifeng, other "city leaders" supported Huang's effort. Those others might be the relatively clean element in Fuzhou and/or those who are closer to Song Defu, the serving party secretary at the time.

But according to the letter, at the end of 2003, the party secretary of Fuzhou, still He Lifeng, suddently gave Huang permission to further pursue the case. Why? A quick google search reveals that in mid-2003 a huge corruption case broke out in Fuzhou, which threatened to topple the city government. An infamous drug dealer and money launderer in the city named Chen Kai was arrested earlier in the year. By June, 8 senior officials in the city government were arrested for receiving bribes from Chen. Obviously, since He Lifeng was party secretary of the city all along, there is little chance that he was not a part of the Chen ring. Under pressure from the provincial government and possibly the central government, He might have made a show of pursuing the highway case (which Huang was investigating) to take the heat off himself on the Chen Kai case. The Chen Kai case was far more serious than the highway case. His tactic worked. He saved his job, and Chen Kai was rumored to have "committed suicide due to a guilty conscience."

So, what does this have to do with national politics? If He Lifeng was indeed a protege of former party secretary Xi Jinping, then He is probably protected by Jiang himself, since Xi is a loyal follower of Jiang. The Chen Kai case is at the level of the Yuanhua case and likely attracted the attention of officials at the highest level. Unfortunately, Song Defu, who had been party secretary, was demoted to the head of the provincial NPC position in January 2003, replaced by Lu Zhangong, who is much less loyal to Hu Jintao. (I am not sure which faction he is in. According to Lam, he is in Wu Guanzheng's faction, but he is a long-time official in Zhejiang, which is traditionally a Jiang stronghold). In comes Huang Jingao's letter, which might have been written on his own initiative or with the prodding of Song's faction. In any event, the RMRB decided to publish it, probably with Hu Jintao's blessing. In the letter, there is also a slight dig on Jiang's Three Represents theory: "if the communist party speaks of "three represent," then we must respond to the cries of the people.... otherwise, how are we 'representing?' what are we 'representing'." This might have hinted at the hypocrisy of Jiang followers Xi Jinping and He Lifeng. The Propaganda Department, under the control of Jiang loyalist Liu Yunshan, soon take action to ban the letter from all media. In this contest of power, Jiang is still showing the upper hand.

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