China: Chongqing corruption trial reveals brutality of new oligarchy

The media coverage of the Chongqing corruption trial is focusing on the salacious details of the city's reigning crime queen, Xie Caiping, the sister-in-law of the deputy police chief, who is accused of running 20 illegal gambling halls (and notoriously kept a private entourage of 16 young lovers). Six gang members have been sentenced to death for crimes including murder and blackmail, the first among hundreds expected to go on trial—including 14 high-ranking officials. Reading past the headlines reveals that the crime machine served as local enforcers for post-socialist China's new landed oligarchy.

From the New York Times, Nov. 4:

Among those on trial this week is Li Qiang, a local legislator and billionaire who the authorities say owned a fleet of 1,000 cabs and 100 bus routes. So great was his power, they say, that he orchestrated a taxi strike last year that brought the city to a standstill. On trial with him are three government officials suspected of acting as his "protection umbrellas" in exchange for payments of about $100,000 each.

While Mr. Li stood in the dock, more than 200 people gathered outside in the rain, including women who said they were roughed up in October last year when they refused to vacate their homes for a redevelopment project. One of them, Wu Pinghui, 67, said 40 people were herded into a government-owned bus and dumped in the countryside. By the time they made it back, their homes were gone.

"We called 110," she said, referring to the Chinese emergency number, "but the police said they couldn’t get involved in a government affair."

Hong Guibi also came to the courthouse. She said the Communist Party chief of her village, enraged when she and her husband refused to give him part of their orchard, watched as thugs attacked the couple with cleavers. Ms. Hong, 47, was critically wounded, and her husband was killed. "The neighbors heard our screams, but they were afraid to do anything," she said.

The AP on Oct. 20 also quoted Huang Guobi's testimony:

Huang Guobi, a farmer, said her husband was killed when seven gang members broke into their house and attacked him to settle a land dispute. Her husband was stabbed more than 20 times; she suffered 10 stab wounds, she said.

"We were screaming for help, but nobody came," Huang said. "I passed out and regained consciousness after I was sent to the hospital. All villagers know those people are gangsters. They gamble, steal or rob all the time."

The Wall Street's Morgan Stanley has also been implicated in Chinese corruption. The New York Times reported on March 2 that in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing, the brokerage firm said it had fired an executive in its China real estate division after uncovering evidence he might have violated the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which bars Americans from bribing foreign officials. The Shanghai Securities Daily said that Chinese authorities were investigating a number of Morgan's real estate deals, including the company's purchase last year from Agile Property, a large developer, of a 30% stake in a Chinese resort development for $775 million.

We can probably assume that the Chongqing crackdown is at least in part prompted by the wave of peasant unrest that is sweeping China in response to the usurpation of villagers by the new oligarchy.

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More peasant unrest over land-grabs in China

From China Daily, May 19:

More than 100 residents of Huazhou in South China's Guangdong province went down on their knees outside the city government building to demand the release of six fellow villagers who were detained following a farmland dispute last month, local media reported on Tuesday.

On April 18, a township government official and a police officer, together with the help of 10 unemployed youths, detained six farmers from Meizikeng village suspected of being involved in a clash with neighb