The Trial of Huang Jingao

Here is the chronology.  In August last year, a Communist Party Secretary Huang Jingao published a letter on the People's Daily Net titled Why I Wore A Bullet-Proof Vest For The Last Six Years.  This is an anti-corrupt screed from the ultimate insider who had to wear a bullet-proof vest because his life was being threatened by corrupt officials and businessmen.  This open letter was an instant sensation on the Internet.

Within days, however, the letter was banned by official decree everywhere.  The Fujian government published a 10,000-word counter-attack in Why I Wore A Bullet-Proof Vest For The Last Six Years (The Rebuttal Case).  In December, according to The Four Mistresses of Huang Jingao, Huang was arrested for corruption himself, plus having either four or six mistresses (depending on the counting method).  Huang was alleged to have used the open letter to pre-empt an investigation and to paint himself as incorruptible so that all attacks on him would be political persecution.

At this time, I will state that I have no opinion one way or the other.  I don't have the facts, nor does any outsider really.  I am not interested in faith-based positions.  I am continuing to report what is happening in a case that got a lot of attention once upon a time.

On September 13, the trial of Huang Jingao began.  Here is the summary of the proceedings on September 13 from YCWB.

At around 840am, Huang Jingao proceeded to the defendant's dock at the Nanping City Intermediate Court, Fujian province.  Huang wore yellow-colored prison clothes and he seemed to be stumbling a bit.  When the court police tried to take the handcuffs off, his hands were trembling so it took some time to complete the process.  There were more than 30 people present at the court.  The two defense lawyers are from Beijing and Fuzhou respectively.

The court proceedings began with the prosecutor reading off the charges.  During the reading, Huang Jingao kept twisting and moving his body, and appeared to be uncomfortable.  The prosecution document was very long, and it took more than one hour to read.

It was charged that between 1993 to 2004, Huang Jingao occupied various official positions.  By virtue of his professional authority with respect to promotions, hiring and project management, he was able to sell favors and received a grand total of 3,685,300 RMB, 228,000 US dollars, 30 pieces of previous rocks (valued at more than 260,000 RMB) and other items.  In the largest single instance, he got as much as 500,000 RMB; in the smallest single instance, he got a platinum gold necklace.

In the face of these accusations, Huang Jingao admitted to some of them.  He spoke to the judge in a heavy Fujianese accent to say that "there are discrepancies in certain details."  He also said that some of the money had not been received by him, so it was not bribery.

The trial will continue tomorrow.

(Cai Jing via

September 13, 2005 was an ordinary Tuesday.  In the early morning, the residents near Gaoqiao Road in Fuzhou City next to the Fuzhou Middle-Level Court felt a rarely felt atmosphere of tension.

At 7am, one hour before office hours begin, the court was already surrounded by court judicial police, Fuzhou City public security bureau police and some plainclothes workers wearing a "1216 case" blue working pass.  There were police lined up in front of the courthouse in which hearings take place.

"There must be a big case," a Gaoqiao Road resident told the reporter.  At the time, he did not know that at 830am, the bribery case of Huang Jingao, which has received much attention, would commence the first hearing at the Fuzhou Middle-Level Court.

"1216" is the date when former Fuzhou City Lianjiang County party chairman Huang Jingao was placed under the "double regulations."

In August 11, 2004, the People's Daily Net published in full a letter from then Fuzhou City Lianjiang County party chairman Huang Jingao . The title was "Why I Wore A Bullet-Proof Vest For Six Years."

In his letter, Huang Jingao wrote that when he was the Fuzhou City Financial Director in 1998, he investigated the nationally shocking Fuzhou pigs' case (business-government collusion to smuggle pigs) and became the target of certain people who threatened his life.  He was guarded by police officers to and from work for several years and had to wear a bullet-proof vest.  In January 2002, he was transferred to become party secretary at Lianjiang County.  Because he opened up the case of the re-construction of the Lianjiang riverside road, he was threatened once more with physical harm and he had to wear a bullet-proof vest once more.  In this letter, he wrote that the case involved collusion between businesses and officials, leading to "losses of 68 million to the people and 3 million RMB to the people."  This was a "typical corruption case."  He said that he was not surprised to have his life threatened, but he was "deeply troubled" for not getting support from his superiors and other departments.

In his letter, Huang Jingao wrote, "during the investigation of this case, there were various obstructing forces.  There seemed to be an invisible net covering up this corruption case.  Faced with this political maelstrom, I am perplexed."

"I know that I have done many things that violate the unwritten rules of government, and I made certain people uncomfortable.  But these  unwritten rules permitted corruption to flourish and eat away the bodies of our party and government.  The officialdom that were enabled by these unwritten rules often have huge amounts of power, making it difficult for those try to oppose it," Huang Jingao wrote in his letter.

When the letter was published, the whole country was shaken up.  Huang Jingao became a nationally renowned "anti-corruption fighter."

Three days later, on August 14, the matter took a sharp turn.

On the important news website Southeastern News Net in Fujian province, there were nine essays attacking Huang Jingao.  They responded to the issues about the "bullet-proof vest," the "pigs' case" and "the land case."  They believe that Huang Jingao could not be wearing a bullet-proof vest coming and going to work, because nobody was threatening him.  They believe that the "pigs' case" was investigated by Huang Jingao because he was under pressure to clear himself.  They announced that the Fuzhou City party had been investigating the "land case" all along . Thus, Huang Jingao was untruthful about the problems in the letter.

The essays also pointed out that Huang's letter to People's Daily Net is "politically ignorant, it ignores the overall situation, it is an example of negative individualism and an extremely wrong action against party discipline."  "The result is that his actions will be used by western enemies, Taiwan enemies and democratic activists in order to create political instability and serious political incidents."

From then, the letter from Huang Jingao to the People's Daily Net was characterized as a political matter, known as the "811 incident."  Thus, Huang Jingao's fate had just take a quick reversal.

- After the "811 incident", the departments of Fuzhou City began to receive reports about the problems of Huang Jingao;

- On August 17, the Fuzhou City part sent a work team to Lianjiang to "direct the work";

- On October 8, a case was prepared on the Huang Jingao corruption matter and he was placed under surveillance.

- On December 16, Huang Jingao was subject to the "double regulations."  The media then disclosed that Huang Jingao had received bribes and had mistresses.  The image of Huang Jingao turned from "anti-corruption fighter" to corrupt element.  People said that the "bullet-proof vest secretary" was finally exposed and that he "was a robber calling out to catch robbers."  Then there are those who shake their heads and sigh.  And there are those who urge people to pay attention to this case and wait for the case to develop.

- On August 3 this year, the Nanping City People's Prosecutorial Office filed charges at the Nanping Middle-Level Court.

Afterwards, the Chinese Youth Daily, the Chinese Economic Times and other national media published reports about how this dramatic and mysterious case could not be clearly evaluated by the public due to lack of information.  They urged the government to properly consider public emotions over this high-attention case, and they said that the best strategy is to be open and transparent.  "While it is important to deal with Huang Jingao's criminal activities in accordance with the law, it is even more important to remove the public's serious doubts about this case.  This is about respect and trust of the law, this is about the public confidence in social justice and it is about the public confidence in the determination of the party and the government to oppose corruption."

Four days before the hearing, on September 9, a public notice at the bottom right corner of the notice board of the Fujian Province Nanping City Middle-Level Court announced: "Our court will be holding an open hearing at 830am, September 13, 2005 at the Fuzhou City Middle-Level People's Court on the case of the accused Huang Jingao receiving bribes."

If one did not look hard enough, one is unlikely to notice this public announcement.

A Nanping City Middle-Level Court case was being heard in Fuzhou.  This is the second time in the judicial history of Fujian province.  The first time, the organized crime case of Fuzhou's richest man Chen Kai was heard at the Fujian Province Upper-Level People's Court between January 5 and 10 this year.  When A lawyer named Chen came to the courthouse to take care of other matters and he was barred from entering.  His lawyer's identification meant nothing.  Chen said, "The Huang Jingao case is a very sensitive subject in Fujian."

Beginning at 810am, various people begin to show up with spectator passes.  They were examined before being allowed into the hearing hall.  According to Cai Jing's understanding, the Fuzhou Middle-Level court could accommodate up to 100 persons.  But on this morning, fewer than 30 people were able to get spectator passes to watch the Huang Jingao case.  The courtroom was largely empty.

All the spectators had been determined a week before the hearing.  The spectators gallery has the names and work units of these spectators.  Huang Jingao's relatives had two spectators' seats reserved for them, but neither the wife nor the son were present.

The Huang Jingao case was scheduled to be heard over two consecutive days.  At 1140am on September 14, the hearing was terminated half a day earlier.  There was no immediate verdict.  During the hearing, no media were present in the spectators' gallery.  When the hearing was over, the departments did not release any information to the media.

As of now, only Guangzhou's YCWB sent a reporter to Fuzhou to report on the Huang Jingao trial.  No local Fujian media reported on the Huang Jingao trial.  According to Cai Jing's understanding, they were all instructed: "The reporters will not attend and the media will not report."

After the hearing was over, Cai Jing attempted to interview Huang Jingao's defense lawyer.  But the two lawyers cited "discipline" and refused to speak.  The relatives of Huang Jingao also left hurriedly afterwards.  The reporter found out later that Huang Jingao's brother-in-law and younger brother were in attendance.

Cai Jing contacted the Nanping City Middle-Level Court and the Nanping City Prosecutors' Office.  The contact persons declined to be interviewed because was under the jurisdiction of the Fujian Province Upper-Level People's Court and the Fujian Province Prosecutors' Office.  Meanwhile, the Fujian Province Prosecutors' Office and the Fujian Province Upper-Level Court said that since a verdict has not been rendered yet, "it is inappropriate to comment."

According to what a public servant who attended the hearing, Huang Jingao was accused of 50 acts of receiving property from others, covering the period from 1993 to 2004 when he was the Deputy District Leader of rural Fuzhou City, the Deputy Director of Pu'an District, the Fuzhou City Financial Director and the Lianjiang Party Secretary.  In total, he received 3,685,300 RMB, US$228,000, 30 pieces of precious rocks (valued at more than 26,000 RMB), one notebook computer, one gold brick and two platinum neck chains.  The total value is more than 5,800,000 RMB.  Also, Huang Jingao demanded bribes of 1,275,000 RMB and US$160,000.

Accordingly, Huang Jingao and his defense lawyers have doubts about more than 490,000 RMB in the bribe totals.  For example, according to the defense lawyers, a certain part of what the prosecutor said were bribes were actually used on capital and projects for the departments under supervision and therefore should be characterized as bribery.  The lawyers also challenged the valuation on the precious rocks as well as the 287,000 RMB spend on renovating his home.

The prosecutor asserted that after the "811 incident," Huang Jingao claimed that he needed expense money to go to Beijing to report on the case and he demanded 540,000 RMB and US$160,000 from four local corporations.  These sums were regarded as forced bribes.  The lawyers claimed that these were "flexible arrangements that were made after Huang Jingao's financial authority had been controlled" and besides, there were just loans and therefore should not be counted as bribes.

In spite of this, the overall atmosphere in the courtroom did not show an obvious antagonism.

This case involved up to 100 witnesses, but not a single witness appeared in court.  During the examination, when it came to points when it is unclear where the money was coming from or going to, the chief judge would remind Huang Jingao that he only need to explain "his own problems."

During the hearing, Huang Jingao was calm and his speech was clear.  "Basically, this was the good situation that the government hoped for," said this spectator.

The only "incident" occurred in the final moments.  According to legal procedures, the defendant needs to make his final statement just before the hearing ends.  There is a microphone before everyone.  Huang Jingao had been sitting there and questioned.  For this final statement, the chief judge asked him to stand up and speak out.  At the time, the microphone was obviously placed too low, so nobody could hear Huang Jingao's voice.  Huang did not seem to have noticed the problem and he kept talking.  The chief judge did not tell him to stop either.  Finally, a court officer went up to adjust the position of the microphone.  But by that time, Huang Jingao's final statement was over.  Virtually no one in the spectators' gallery heard what Huang said.

The media had previously reported about Huang's mistresses.  None of those situations were mentioned in the court hearing.

After the hearing, the reporter attempted to see how local Fuzhou residents thought about this case.  Most of the people refused to talk about it.  According to an informed source, the Huang Jingao case involved more than 100 people, and many people with close relationships to him were investigated.  This is particularly so for those who continued to have economic ties with Huang after the "811" incident.

An informed source provided the reporter with the home address of Huang Jingao.  When the reporter got there, he found an ordinary civilian house.  There are eight floors in the building without an elevator, and the Huang family lived on the top floor.  From the open door, the furnishing was ordinary.

Huang's wife politely but firmly kept the reporter outside.  She looked around 40 years old and the experience of the past year shows on her face.  According to the informed source, she teaches at a Fuzhou university.  In December last year, she was subjected to the "double regulations" along with Huang and the condition was lifted in July this year.

Outside the courtroom, Huang Jingao's younger brother Huang Jinpeng calmly refused to be interviewed.  According to Cai Jing's understanding, Huang Jinpeng is a public servant in the Putian district and does not have a lot of contact with Huang Jingao.  After Huang Jingao was placed under the "double regulations" last year, Huang Jinpeng was investigated a dozen or so days and then released when no problems were found.

A spectator with a legal background told Cai Jing that the hearing showed that much of the investigation (including reported events) occurred after the "811 incident".  Furthermore, when the prosecutor also noted the time when the evidence was collected as he listed the charges and everything had happened after the "811 incident."  "It is difficult for people not to imagine many things," said the person.

The Huang Jingao caught the attention of many people.  But the Lianjiang County "land case" that was reported by Huang Jingao in the "811 incident" has still not been resolved.  Just before the Huang Jingao hearing took place, the Chinese Youth Daily published an essay that says the best way to convince the people about Huang Jingao's crimes is: "First, investigate what Huang Jingao said about corruption is true.  Then send out an investigation team to get all the details and use irrefutable facts to reveal Huang Jingao's lies.  Then, if it is established that Huang Jingao has other illegal activities, conduct an investigation of his illegal activities."

The essay laments that on this problem, the public only saw the government published the "notice that said Huang Jingao was a criminal."

According to the criminal law code, if a person receives bribes of more than 100,000 RMB, they can be sentenced from ten years to life, plus confiscation of assets; in the most serious cases, the death sentence plus confiscation of assets.  Extracting bribes is considered a serious crime.

According to Cai Jing's understanding, the Nanping City Prosecutors' Office prosecuted Huang Jingao at the Nanping City Middle-Level Court.  According to the criminal law, the initial hearing should be completed in three months.  That is to say, on November 3 at the latest, the court will return a verdict.

According to a leader in the Fujian Province Upper Court, the verdict from the initial hearing will be available soon.  "It won't be held up for too long."

(Shanghai Daily)  November 10, 2005.

Former Party chief in Fujian Province was sentenced to life imprisonment for bribery and embezzlement yesterday, more than a year after he shot to short-lived national stardom for fighting corruption.  Huang Jingao, 53, was convicted by the Nanping Intermediate People's Court of accepting bribes of more than 5.8 million yuan (US$717,413) and embezzling 140,000 yuan in Lianjiang County.

(Caijing Magazine)  Convicted “Crime Fighter” Appeals Life Sentence.  November 28, 2005.

Huang Jingao, a former Communist Party official in Lianjiang County, Fujian Province, has appealed a local court decision sentencing him to life in prison for taking bribes and embezzling government funds.

Huang gained national fame last year when he blew the whistle on alleged local corruption. In an open letter later published on the official People Daily’s Web site in August 2004, he claimed that he had to wear a bullet-proof vest for the last six years for fear of retaliation from local crime gangs. He had championed anti-crime campaigns in the provincial capital of Fuzhou and Lianjiang, and had received multiple death threats, Huang wrote.

Ironically, Huang himself soon became entangled in a graft dragnet, and was sentenced to life 15 months after his stunning declaration.

Dubbed by the media as “bullet-proof vest party secretary” since the unusual revelation, Huang had criticized his superiors and other government agencies for not lending a hand to his crusade against crime and corruption.. But only three days after the publication of the letter, the Fujina provincial government responded by putting nine articles on an official news Web site, questioning Huang’s credibility and declaring that his allegation against the government untrue.

The articles also condemned Huang for flouting Party rules and instigating political instability by circumventing his superiors and writing directly to the People’s Daily. The Party Committee of Fuzhou soon put together a task force and started internal investigations against Huang.

Four months later, Huang’s short-lived reputation turned to notoriety, as he was put under house arrest and charged with graft. Meanwhile, Fujian media produced stories about Huang’s alleged corrupt deeds, including taking bribes and keeping mistresses. In early November, a court convicted him of receiving bribery and embezzling government funds, and sentenced him to life in prison in a 50-page ruling. 

Huang’s defense has challenged most of the 50 counts of bribery charges which totaled 5.8 million yuan. (US$ 718,000). Specifically, the defense held that some 430,000 yuan (US$ 53,200) of the amount was expenses Huang incurred while trying to secure favorable business and government contracts for local communities, and later got compensated for. The court ruled against Huang, saying he had failed to produce evidence on how the money was spent. However, Huang’s lawyer told Caijing that the court had refused to hear Huang’s testimony on where the money went. “Talk about your own affairs, and don’t implicate others,” was what the investigators told Huang, according to the lawyer, Zhao Li. Zhao said that the additional testimony would probably implicate some incumbent officials.

The defense also told the court that Huang had received some 1.75 million yuan and US$ 56,000 from others as “red envelope money” – gifts for no particular exchange of favors, and these amounts shouldn’t be classified as bribery. The court rejected that claim as well. 

Caijing has learned that the court allowed testimony by more than 100 witnesses, yet none showed up for the court hearing. Huang’s lawyer questions the credibility of the witnesses, claiming that all of them gave the testimony while they were under detention and investigation themselves.

In addition, Chen Fa, a 42-year-old private businessman in Lianjiang and key witness in the case against Huang, died while under detention in June. Through its own investigations, Caijing learned that one of the first corruption allegations against Huang came in October 2004, when investigators found that Huang had asked for a 310,000-yuan (US$ 38,400) bribe from Chen, a local hotel-restaurant owner. Therefore, Chen was the fist link in the chain of evidence against Huang.

Investigators from the Fuzhou Communist Party Committee’s Discipline Department detained Chen on October 22 after he went for a health checkup at a local hospital, and raided his hotel later that day. Local taxation authorities soon billed Chen’s hotel more than 5 million yuan (US$ 618,800) in overdue taxes, and Chen was officially arrested for tax evasion in February.

Chen’s health deteriorated rapidly during his detention, but he was denied bail. On June 12, officials told Chen’s relatives to pick him up at a local hospital where he had been in a coma for 19 hours. He died three days later of multiple organ failures. According to test results Caijing obtained from Chen’s October 2004 checkup, Chen was in relatively sound health, with a light case of gastroenteritis.

Many of Huang’s relatives and associates also were detained and interrogated, and later some claimed they were tortured during detention. Li Changqing, a Fuzhou journalist who helped Huang pen his allegation letter to the People’s Daily, has been charged with subversion. Mo Shaoping, Li’s Beijing-based lawyer, told Caijing that the case against Li had nothing to do with Huang. Mo is pleading not guilty on Li’s behalf.

Official Fujian media accused Huang of keeping as many as four mistresses after investigations against him started. One of the women named in the stories, a 35-year-old Lianjiang resident, told Caijing that she was detained by Lianjiang’s party discipline department officials in December 2004 for no apparent reason, and held for around seven months.

The woman, who identified herself only by her last name, Xie, told Caijing that she had no illegitimate relations with Huang. Their only link was that Huang had helped her get better compensations from a local real estate firm in one of the corruption investigations that he led. Xie said she had written two letters to the central government insisting Huang’s innocence after his arrest. She told Caijing that she was tortured and threatened during her detention. Officials never told her why they had detained and then released her.

The other three women named in the “mistress” stories, Caijing learned, include his wife, ex-wife, and the widow of a former colleague.