China’s anti-gang campaign sucks billions from private entrepreneurs

Published (HKT): 2021.04.08 20:47

At least 370,000 people were caught in China’s nationwide campaign against gang crime over the last three years, but most of them cried foul and found the prosecution a confiscation of assets in disguise.

Slogans urging citizens to “resolutely root out black and evil forces” have flooded cities and counties across the country since 2018. Officials recently announced that the courts have completed the legal proceedings of over 33,000 cases of organized crime and seized assets worth 544 billion yuan (US$83.11 billion), surpassing the total of the last decade.

State media hailed the campaign as a huge success. But a lawyer familiar with anti-gang cases said many private entrepreneurs were convicted of “gang-related” charges by local governments to make up the numbers.

“The campaign was simply robbing, once you’re said to be gang-related, all the assets of you and your family would be confiscated,” said the lawyer, speaking under the pseudonym Yang Yi.

In a mark of the “success” of the campaign, prominent entrepreneur philanthropist Li Huaiqing was sentenced to jail for 20 years last year, on charges of “incitement to subvert state power,” fraud and extortion. The court froze all his assets, as well as the bank accounts of his sister, who is unrelated to the case.

Li’s wife, Bao Yan, had her office raided by police. Eight of Li’s former employees were also put behind bars.

But Li and his family were just among the tens of thousands crying foul. Yang said it is handy for the authorities to claim private entrepreneurs to be “gang-related,” as they are “organizations that have economic activities” – a feature similar to that of a criminal organization.

He said entrepreneurs who were prosecuted with such charges were usually those who had committed other offences that were far from organized crime.

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