Shanghaiist is no law expert, but we just learned that there are no extradition agreements between China and Hong Kong. Back in 2003, the property tycoon (and then richest man in Shanghai at $320 million USD) Zhou Zhengyi was arrested in Shanghai for falsely reporting the holdings of his company as well as manipulating stock prices, and got slammed with a three year sentence. Here’s basically what happened:
On May 28, the Jingan District People’s Court in Shanghai began hearing a lawsuit by six homeowners representing 2,159 original residents of a property on West Beijing Road. The plaintiffs claimed that the Jingan District Property Development Bureau, under the instructions of the district government, improperly allowed a company controlled by Zhou to redevelop the 43,429-square-meter property without paying a land lease with an estimated value of 300 million yuan (US$36.3 million).
Zhou’s business dealings involved massive amounts of illegal loans from the Bank of China and has been called the biggest financial fraud case since the founding of the PRC. Zhou was released in late May from Hongkou district’s Tilanqiao prison (and supposedly changed his name while in the slammer to Zou Zhenyi) but because his wife was also found guilty of high level crimes in Hong Kong (and he is related to that case) they are still both high on the wanted list in the SAR. However, because of the aforementioned lack of extradition agreements, a Shanghai government spokesperson stated on June 21 that Shanghai had no plans to help Hong Kong nab Zhou/Zou.
For you “elite politics” political science types, there’s a theory floating around that the Zhou case is related to power struggles between Hu Jintao, Wen Jiabao and the “Shanghai faction” headed by former president Jiang Zemin. Apparently Zhou was in bed with many of the “princelings” or children of the “Shanghai faction,” but the people handling these cases were firmly under Hu and Wen’s control. So this was Hu and Wen’s way of taking the “Shanghai faction” down a notch.
The lawyer Zheng Enchong represented numerous housing residents that brought lawsuits against property redevelopers such as Zhou. Zheng, like Zhou, was arrested in 2003 and sentenced to three years in jail, and was released recently.
Are/were these two cases related? Officially they are not, but consider this:
Zheng was the lawyer of many cases in which dislocated households sued Zhou and and alleged collusion with local officials. Zheng is believed to be one of the most important witnesses with knowledge of evidence against Zhou’s alleged illegal acts. A spokesperson for the Shanghai Public Security Bureau denied any linkage of Zheng’s detention with investigations on Zhou, but it is apparent that Zheng was targeted because powerful people were threatened by the lawsuits he handled.
Zheng’s official crime was “leaking state secrets” to Human Rights in China (HRC), a human rights group based in New York. According to a Chinese report, Zheng somehow got his hands on a Xinhua internal memo regarding some of the extra-legal and shady aspects involved in property redevelopment (such as the obstruction of journalists attempting to report on these issues) and sent this information along to HRC with a note attached: “I hope this can be used or quoted.” Prosecutors argued that the note demonstrated that Zheng was perfectly aware of what he was doing. Luckily for him, out of the three categories of classified information in China this document belonged to the least most secretive category , which is why Zheng’s sentence was only three years. Of course, on top of that he lost his political rights for a year (during or after his sentence, we’re not sure). We’re pretty sure he’s not sweatin’ it, since no one in China really has political rights anyway.
After his release last month, Zheng Enchong promised he would continue to defy the authorities and continue to speak out against corruption:
“I am innocent,” he told The Associated Press in a telephone interview a day after his release. “I am also going to report the corruption, irregularities in land-use approval and violations of human rights in Shanghai redevelopment projects to the central government.”
Thus far, Zheng has kept true to his word by writing an open letter to the United Nations Human Rights Council.
Photo of Zheng Enchong from finance.eastday.com.