Wanting Qu, pop star girlfriend of Vancouver’s mayor, ‘confident’ of justice in mother’s Chinese death penalty case

Qu’s mother, a former Chinese official, is accused of embezzling US$52m in a case which has gone silent since her trial was adjourned almost a year ago

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 02 July, 2017, 9:28am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 04 July, 2017, 12:52am

China’s criminal courts have a conviction rate of more than 99 per cent, but Vancouver-based pop star Wanting Qu, girlfriend of the city’s mayor, said she was confident about the outcome of her mother’s corruption trial, in which she faces the death penalty.

Qu on Saturday issued a statement on the drawn-out case in the mainland against her mother, Qu Zhang Mingjie, a former Harbin official accused of embezzling 350 million yuan (US$52 million) in a supposed real estate scam.

Qu wrote on her Weibo social media page that the court’s year-long consideration of the case suggested that her mother’s defence was being taken seriously, and she expected a just result from the Chinese legal system.

Zhang, 61, was in charge of a 2009 transfer of state land in Heilongjiang province that allegedly led to it illicitly ending up in the hands of a property developer. Hundreds of impoverished farmers who had lived in dormitories on the land supposedly suffered as a result.

She was charged last year with embezzlement, bribery and abusing power, and prosecutors asked the Harbin City Intermediate People’s Court to have her executed. She denied the charges.

Qu wrote that the case had not reached the final sentencing phase despite the trial having taken place last July 19, “indicating that the court is handling the case very carefully, and the views of the defence are important”.

Chinese prosecutors seek death penalty for pop star’s mother

“I am more confident in China’s legal progress and [this has] made me more confident in China’s rule of law, believing that the court will make an objective and impartial judgment,” Qu wrote in Chinese.

Criminal trials in China have a conviction rate of 99.9 per cent, according to the China Law Yearbook. Zhang – who was deputy director of Harbin’s development and reform commission – also allegedly allowed compensation payments of 61.6 million yuan intended for the displaced farmers to be diverted into a bank account controlled by the private company that took control of the land, according to an account of the trial by the state Xinhua news agency.

Xinhua reported that the 50 hectares of land were occupied by a state-owned maize farm. It was supposed to have been transferred into the control of a private agriculture firm, Harbin Dongjiang Agricultural Technology Co.

But the land-use terms of the sale were allegedly doctored, Xinhua reported; private Chinese media separately reported that rights were illicitly transferred into the hands of a property firm controlled by the same interests as the farming company, with the intention of building a huge housing development.

Wanting Qu addresses mother’s possible execution

At the time, 420 staff and 146 retired workers lived in dormitories on the land, according to thepaper.cn, a private media outlet.

Xinhua said Zhang allegedly split hundreds of millions of yuan in profits with a co-conspirator. She also allegedly took a 100,000 yuan bribe from a subordinate who received “a benefit relating to land requisition matters”, Xinhua said.

But there has been a notable silence on the high-profile case since it was adjourned last July 20.

Qu’s Canadian label, the Nettwerk Music Group, did not respond to requests for comment on her Weibo posting.

The 33-year-old singer became Vancouver’s first tourism ambassador to China in 2013. She confirmed she was dating 52-year-old Gregor Robertson, Vancouver’s married mayor, in 2015.

A year earlier, Robertson had announced his separation from wife of more than 25 years, Amy Robertson, saying it was a “mutual decision that we made amicably”.