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Wanting Qu (right) with her mother, former Harbin City planning official Qu Zhang Mingjie. Photo: CTV

Canada-based pop star Wanting Qu pleads for mother in Harbin death-penalty corruption case – but China’s netizens are unimpressed

  • Wanting Qu said on Weibo her ‘heart aches’ for mother Qu Zhang Mingjie, an ex-official in Harbin who prosecutors want executed in a US$52 million graft case
  • A hashtag about Qu’s comments has been viewed 230 million times – and drawn scathing responses

Canada-based pop star Wanting Qu has issued a heartfelt plea for justice in the long-delayed Chinese corruption case against her mother, a former Harbin city official who prosecutors want executed for allegedly embezzling 350 million yuan (US$52 million).

Qu’s posting on Weibo, telling how her “heart aches” for her mother Qu Zhang Mingjie, went viral this week. Posts carrying a hashtag referring to her comments have been viewed more than 230 million times, but elicited an overwhelmingly negative response from Chinese netizens.
Wanting Qu (right) and mother Qu Zhang Mingjie. Photo: Wanting Qu / Weibo

“My mother has been detained for more than four years, and there is still no verdict,” Qu wrote on Monday. “My heart aches, but I still have to believe that the court will give a fair and just result.

“I wish you all a happy Spring Festival, family reunion, health and happiness.”

Chinese corruption prosecutors seek death penalty for mother of Wanting Qu

Terry McBride of Canadian record label Nettwerk said he no longer represented Qu. A request for comment lodged with an email address for Qu’s managers, listed on her Facebook page, did not receive an immediate response.

A photo taken inside Harbin City Intermediate People's Court on July 19, 2016, shows defendants Qu Zhang Mingjie (right, flanked by policewomen) and co-accused Wang Shaoyu at their corruption trial. Photo: Harbin City Intermediate People's Court

The fate of Zhang, 62, remains unknown more than two and a half years after her two-day trial at the Harbin City Intermediate People’s Court. No reason has been given for the delay in the verdict.

The former Harbin City planning official is accused of profiting from a real estate scam that reportedly left hundreds of impoverished farm workers in appalling conditions, as real estate developers tried to force them out of dorm accommodation on a state-owned corn farm that had been transferred into private hands in 2009.

Zhang is said to have deceived farm managers about the terms of the land transfer, allegedly receiving about 350 million yuan (US$52 million) in kickbacks from the new owners. Chinese media reported that the new owners tried to force out workers who lived on the farm, cutting off their pensions and eventually shutting down the boiler in the dorms; January low temperatures in Heilongjiang province average -24 Celsius.

Wanting Qu and Vancouver's Mayor Gregor Robertson in an image posted to social media on January 23, 2016. Photo: Wanting Qu

The accusations are strongly denied by Zhang’s defence, which says a confession was obtained unlawfully.

Wanting Qu issues update on mother’s death-penalty case, declaring Chinese law ‘perfect and righteous’

China’s courts have a conviction rate of about 99.9 per cent.

Wanting Qu approved just three sympathetic responses to her Weibo posting. But a Weibo hashtag “Wanting Qu talks again about her mother’s alleged corruption case” prompted a massive reaction, viewed almost a quarter of a billion times and triggering more than 23,000 discussions.

Although some users tried to separate Qu from the alleged crimes of her mother, the vast majority of comments ranged from negative to downright scathing.


“When you were studying abroad, why didn’t you talk about fairness then?” wrote one user, calling themselves “Glorious Days of the Prefects”, and describing Qu’s comments as “shameless”.

The fierce reaction comes as China-Canada relations plunge to new lows, after the arrest of Huawei executive Sabrina Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver in December, and China’s detention of two Canadian citizens, Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, for allegedly breaching national security.

Singer Wanting Qu with her mother Qu Zhang Mingjie. Photo: Weibo

In March 2018, Qu said on Weibo she was “waiting in silence” for the verdict in her mother’s case because she believed Chinese law to be “perfect and righteous”.


Qu, 35, moved to Vancouver as a student in her teens. She found fame with her 2012 album “Everything in the World”, then was named a tourism ambassador for Vancouver in 2013.

She was also the girlfriend of Vancouver’s married mayor Gregor Robertson. They broke up in 2017 after a two-year relationship that they documented on social media. Robertson did not seek re-election last year.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Singer seeks justice as detained mother awaits trial verdict