China to Execute Senior Communist Party Official for Bribery

A security guard walks into a mocked courtroom on display at the China Court Museum in Beijing, Tuesday, April 11, 2017. China's use of the death penalty remains shrouded in secrecy and still outpaces the rest of the world combined, even after the nation's execution rate fell sharply over the …
Andy Wong/AP

Chinese state media announced on Tuesday that a high-ranking Communist Party official named Shi Wenqing has been sentenced to death on bribery charges.

According to the state-run Global Times, Shi was formerly the Deputy Director of the Standing Committee of the Provincial People’s Congress in Jiangxi, which is located in central China. He also held a post in the northeastern province of Heilongjiang. 

From these positions, Shi allegedly raked in $28.6 million in bribes between 2003 and 2020, in exchange for which he provided “illegal assistance to institutes and individuals who were involved in financing and project contracting as well as the acquisition of state-owned land.”

Shi allegedly kept taking bribes for months after he retired from office in 2019. He also “issued groundless criticism of the Party’s policies, and deceived the central government on major issues,” and even dared to handle an illegally-acquired firearm.

“The amount of bribes Shi took was huge and caused heavy losses to the interests of the country and the people, so the case has to be dealt with seriously,” said the court that convicted Shi. 

The defendant was supposedly given a little special consideration because he “confessed all the facts about his criminal behavior” and returned his bribe money to the government, but he still wound up with a death sentence anyway. 

Allegations of corruption are a common vehicle for purging Communist Party officials who fall out of favor, and harsh sentences are often handed down because the Party wants to be seen as tough on corruption. The seeming paradox that China is riddled with corruption despite a propensity for punishing it with long jail sentences or execution is rarely addressed.

Shi, 68, has been a member of the Chinese Communist Party since 1974 and began holding high offices in 1999. He assumed his highest post as deputy director of the Jiangxi Standing Committee in 2015. 

The Communist Party announced it was investigating Shi for corruption in September 2020. He was expelled from the Party in March 2021 and arrested the following month. He was formally indicted for “taking bribes and illegally possessing firearms” in May 2021. His death sentence came with a “two-year reprieve,” which in practice means his execution will most likely be commuted to life in prison.

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