3 August 2020
Zhao Zhengyong, former Shaanxi party chief was found guilty of accepting more than US$100m in bribes for approving construction projects, business operations and appointments to government jobs. Official website of the Tianjin No 1 Intermediate People’s Court said that the scale of his corruption merited a death sentence but it would be suspended for two years because Zhao had confessed to his crimes. After that it will be commuted to life in prison, but he will not be entitled to any further sentence reduction. His personal property was also confiscated. On 27 March 2016, Zhao Zhengyong stepped down from the post of Party Chief.
Zhao’s case attracted public attention after officials ignored instructions from President Xi Jinping to tear down illegally constructed villas in the Qinling Mountains, a national reserve. The development consisted of 2000 villas spanning around 9,000 square meters, two fishponds and a stunning garden decorated by sophisticated stone carvings and jade statues. These lavish villas were largely built upon farmland and forest.
In 2003, the Shaanxi provincial government issued the decision to ban all individual and business entities from using the land in the Qinling Mountains national reserve for individual property construction and real estate development. Nonetheless, the construction continued.
State media said local officials snubbed five written directives between 2014 to 2018, and only acted on the sixth. Those officials were later sacked and jailed.
The Qinling Mountains range is a natural demarcation between the northern and southern part of China and is immensely important as a biodiversity area, as well as home to the habitats of many wild animals including giant pandas and golden monkeys. In April, amid the coronavirus pandemic, Xi Jinping made a three-day-trip to Shaanxi Province, and he travelled to the Qinling Mountains.
China: Corruption watchdog’s big catch Zhao Zhengyong