Corruption in China

The stealth mission that brought down a Chinese police chief

Communist Party investigators had to cover their tracks on the trail of corruption in Tianjin, according to state media

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 September, 2017, 10:01am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 September, 2017, 10:01am

For weeks, Ren Aijun and his team would keep the radio on or walk along a river when they needed to talk.

Ren and his graft-busting colleagues were in Tianjin to investigate corruption among the municipality’s leaders and did not want to be overheard by local law enforcers.

Their two-month mission three years ago had been well publicised but by the time it was over they had enough information to put the city’s notorious police chief, Wu Changshun, behind bars, according to a documentary aired on Friday on state broadcaster CCTV.

The documentary detailed some of the cloak-and-dagger operations that Ren and his team from the Communist Party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection had to conduct before Wu was convicted in May of corruption and abuse of power.

The Tianjin property empire 'that politics built'

The graft-busters’ trip had to be publicised so whistle-blowers knew where to find them, but the investigators also had to keep their movements under wraps to ensure they did not tip off targets.

“We were very careful, especially with our meeting rooms and dormitory. We used specific equipment to search for wiretap devices,” Ren said in the documentary.

“We turned on the radio during our meetings, so the signal could interfere with those devices and mask our voices … We would go for a walk outside and along the river to discuss our work.”

Over the two months, the team received more than 10,000 tip-offs in letters, phone calls or in person, many of them about Wu, the programme said.

One whistle-blower reportedly said he information about Wu’s corruption but would only meet the inspectors in their Beijing office.

“He took the batteries out of both his cellphones. I asked him what that was for and he said: ‘I’m afraid of his revenge’,” Ren said.

No money, no talk: TV series reveals how China’s corrupt graft-busters traded secrets for cash

Wu was put under a formal party investigation two months after the inspectors left Tianjin and was eventually given a suspended death sentence.

State media reported that he had amassed 426 million yuan (US$65.5 million) in property, art, jewellery and cash.

The graft-busters’ caution follows revelations that other police chiefs have been prepared to tap the highest levels of power.

Wang Lijun, Chongqing’s former police chief, carried out “illegal criminal surveillance” before he was convicted on various charges in 2012, state media reported, without giving details.

Reuters reported that Wang had bugged telephone calls between then-president Hu Jintao and a central government anti-corruption investigator who was in Chongqing.