Sept. 6 (Bloomberg) -- A Chinese court charged Communist Party investigators with assault after an executive allegedly died in their custody, a lawyer for the victim’s family said.
The court in Quzhou, in eastern China, charged six investigators, including five from the party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, with intention to inflict harm in the April 9 death of Wenzhou Industry Investment Group Co. chief engineer Yu Qiyi, lawyer Pu Zhiqiang said yesterday.
The case is a rare instance of Chinese courts addressing alleged abuses by the party’s discipline inspection commission, which has the power to hold people under extralegal detention. The indictment may be part of efforts to give the courts more independence and balance the party’s power as President Xi Jinping works to bolster its six-decade rule.
“It goes to the whole relationship between the party and the state,” Jean-Pierre Cabestan, a professor of political science at Hong Kong Baptist University, said in a phone interview. “Xi Jinping is trying to negotiate a fine line, keeping a one-party state and giving more legal security to the middle class and society as a whole.”
Pu didn’t say why Yu had been taken into custody. The investigators forced Yu to strip naked and dunk his head under water for more than an hour, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing court documents shown to the newspaper by Yu’s family. They stopped after realizing he wasn’t struggling anymore, the newspaper said.
“We plan to attend the court proceeding, but so far the court hasn’t announced when it will start,” said Pu, of Beijing Huayi Law Firm, who is representing the victim’s family along with Wu Pengbin of Shanghai’s DeBund Law Offices. “We had also applied to access the case dossier which was rejected by the court.”
Calls to two different phone numbers at the Quzhou Intermediate People’s Court rang unanswered yesterday. Wenzhou Industry Investment is a state-owned company. The trial may begin as early as next week, the South China Morning Post reported yesterday.
When his family first saw Yu in the early hours of April 9 after he was released from custody, he was undergoing emergency treatment in a Wenzhou hospital and declared dead two hours later, Wu Qian, Yu’s former wife, said in a telephone interview.
“When I touched him, his body was freezing cold and he was covered with bruises all over the torso, legs, and the bottom of his feet,” she said. The couple, who have an 11-year-old daughter, divorced in 2011 although they continued to live together, Wu said.
The 82 million-member Communist Party has its own enforcement system, led by Vice Premier Wang Qishan, who is a member of the ruling Politburo Standing Committee. Cadres can be placed under “shuanggui” -- a phrase that literally means to report at a specific time at a specific place -- which is the party’s form of extra-judicial custody.
Officials including former Politburo member Bo Xilai and former PetroChina Co. chairman Jiang Jiemin both faced Communist Party sanctions before any legal actions. At his trial last month on corruption-related charges, Bo argued that some confessions he gave while in custody in the months before his trial were made against his will, according to edited court transcripts.
Xi and Wang are overseeing a crackdown on corruption that has seen officials across the country charged with what the party calls “serious discipline violations,” often leading to corruption charges. The indictment comes amid a surge in activity by the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, which started a website earlier this month with information about corruption cases.
Public disclosure of sanctions against party investigators is rare. In 2000 party discipline officials in Taizhou, in eastern China’s Zhejiang province, were charged for the beating death of a 69-year-old retired department store worker, the official China News Service reported at the time. That case was billed as the first prosecution of party discipline officials for causing intentional injury.
Four officials were jailed for the killing, according to a report on Enorth Netnews, a website under the Tianjin Municipal Propaganda Department.
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