Chinese prosecutors have suggested sentencing Zhang Mingjie to death for corruption for her part in orchestrating a scam that made the lives of hundreds of farm workers miserable. Zhang is the mother of Wanting, a Vancouver-based Chinese pop star and the girlfriend of Vancouver’s mayor Gregor Robertson.
Zhang was accused of embezzling around 350 million yuan in a real estate sale during her time as the deputy head of a district in Harbin, reports The Paper. Instead of only transferring ownership of the farm property, Zhang and the other defendants conspired to deceive officials into transferring the land-use rights as well. Zhang later signed the shady contract.
Additionally, the company that bought the farm allegedly refused to pay resettlement fees and provide basic insurance and benefits to the workers that live in the farm’s dormitories. One worker was said to have killed himself when he was unable to obtain medical care after becoming ill. South China Morning Post reported that impoverished workers were left without heating and other facilities in the freezing Harbin winter. The company owes them 11.4 million RMB. Zhang was accused of failing to see the payments through.
During the recent trial at the Harbin City Intermediate People’s Court, prosecutors recommended the death sentence for charges of embezzlement, taking bribes and abuse of power. The defendants plead not guilty, arguing that their confessions were obtained illegally and hence cannot be used.
Wanting Qu, who moved to Vancouver as a teenager, once said in an interview that her mother is her “childhood hero” for being “a hard worker and has given [her] the best life [she] can have, no matter what struggles she went through to do it.” Last year, after news about her mother’s arrest broke, the pop star posted on Facebook: “I love my mother and I’m truly heartbroken. This ordeal is very stressful and I find myself crying over it daily.”
Recently, Wanting also released a new single dedicated to her mother, titled “Your Girl.” In the song, she sings: “I don’t care what people say. I’ll always be your girl.” The singer has received a great deal of hate on Weibo for not condemning her mother.
The trial has adjourned for the time being. If the verdict doesn’t go in favor of Wanting, at least she knows that “everything happens for a reason” and her mom will exist in her song.
By Amy Yang