Top Chinese cabinet official Yang Jing’s sacking ‘linked to missing billionaire Xiao Jianhua’
State Councillor has been removed from administrative posts and demoted
Yang Jing, secretary general of China’s cabinet, has been sacked partly because of links to troubled businessman Xiao Jianhua, sources told the South China Morning Post.
Yang, who also holds the title of state councillor and is a top assistant to Premier Li Keqiang, has been removed from his administrative posts, which decide his perks, and demoted from deputy state to ministerial level, Xinhua reported on Saturday.
The unusual announcement was made just ahead of a key government reshuffle next month, when Yang is due to step down from his posts. He was also put on one year’s probation within the party.
Xinhua said Yang was sacked for “serious violations of Communist Party discipline”. The report said he was accused of colluding with “law-breaking businessmen and society people”, without elaborating – although the latter usually refers to those without stable or lawful employment.
But sources told the Post that Yang’s fall from grace is connected to missing billionaire Xiao Jianhua, who is believed to be “helping authorities with an investigation”.
The Xinhua report said an investigation by the Central Commission for Discipline Investigation found Yang maintained “long-term, inappropriate associations” with the unspecified parties and exerted influence that enabled them to conduct illegal activities and seek huge profits.
Xiao was last seen in January last year leaving the Four Seasons Hotel in Hong Kong in a wheelchair with his head covered, accompanied by several unidentified people. Xiao, founder of financial conglomerate Tomorrow Group, owns direct and indirect stakes in more than 100 companies listed in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Shenzhen through a complex network of entities.
Xiao’s disappearance has spurred widespread speculation that he has been caught in the dragnet of a government crackdown, which could be related to anything from graft and money laundering to exceeding banks’ lending rules.
The Xinhua report also said Yang’s family members accepted bribes from businessmen and public figures. The punishment took into account that Yang had “acknowledged his wrongdoings and expressed regrets during the investigation” and had been reviewed by the CCDI’s standing committee and approved by the Politburo, the report said.
Independent political expert Zhang Lifang said Yang had been shown leniency, being spared from prosecution. He will reach the retirement age of 65 at the end of this year.
Other disgraced senior officials of the same or higher administrative ranking that have been more seriously punished, prosecuted or are on the way to being prosecuted include former security chief Zhou Yongkang, former Chongqing party secretary Sun Zhengcai and Ling Jihua, ex-chief of the General Office of the Communist Party.
“The announcement of Yang’s demotion ahead of the reshuffle definitely sounds a warning signal,” Zhang said.
On Friday, China announced it would prosecute another high-profile businessman, Anbang Group chairman Wu Xiaohui, and has taken over the company.
Also on Saturday, Beijing said the party elite would gather in Beijing for three days from Monday to formally endorse decisions on who will lead the country’s next government and other state bodies.
The Xinhua report did not specify when Yang was investigated, only that it was “recently”, but there was speculation after the party congress in October that he was in trouble because he failed to retain his seat on the Central Committee, the party’s governing body.
He disappeared from public view after the congress until December, when he addressed a meeting at the Chinese Academy of Governance.
Before his appointment to leading roles in the State Council, Yang, an ethnic Mongolian, spent 38 years working in Inner Mongolia and served as the region’s governor for five years from 2003 to 2008.
Between 1993 and 1996, Yang was the Inner Mongolia regional chief of the Communist Youth League of China under its first secretary, Li Keqiang. As secretary general of the State Council, he was also Li’s top assistant, though analysts said it was unlikely Yang’s downfall would implicate Li.
Yang was deputy minister of the United Front Work Department from 2008 before serving as one of the seven sitting members of the Secretariat of the Central Committee and a state councillor.