Chinese police detain activist on graft charges

Liu Ping called for senior Communists to declare assets

Chinese president Xi Jinping, who has called for a crackdown on graft and warned that the problem is so extreme it could threaten the party’s survival. Photograph: Feng Li/Getty Images

Chinese president Xi Jinping, who has called for a crackdown on graft and warned that the problem is so extreme it could threaten the party’s survival. Photograph: Feng Li/Getty Images

 



Chinese police have detained activist Liu Ping on subversion charges after she called on Communist Party cadres to disclose their assets. The reaction to her detention, before news of it was blocked by web censors, was overwhelmingly in favour of Ms Liu.

Recent months have seen a series of exposés in foreign media about the financial wellbeing of senior leaders, most prominent among them a report by Bloomberg about financial holdings by President Xi Jinping’s family and the New York Times Pulitzer Prize-winning exposé about premier Wen Jiabao’s family and their billions.

Senior Communist Party figures earn relatively low salaries, and are ringfenced from the activities of their relatives. However, some family members have not been shy about using these connections to build up business interests.

Since the publication of these articles, activists have campaigned for officials to publicly disclose their wealth, but the detention of Ms Liu makes her the first to be charged by the government for pressuring officials on their wealth.

Ms Liu was missing for several days, but reports indicate that she was detained by police from Xinyu, in the southern province of Jiangxi. According to text messages sent to friends, she had travelled to Beijing to try and find work.


Others detained
Other activists asking for similar revelations have been detained and warned off referring to wealth accrued by the leadership’s families or business associates.

The online reaction to Ms Liu being charged with “attempting to overthrow the Chinese government”, before the remarks were blocked by censors, was overwhelmingly in her favour.

“I heard that Liu Ping was arrested. I think this country has become a crazy dog. I hope you can calm down and think about this carefully. The fate of any regime must be parallel to its people. If you arrest people according to your current standard, then there is not enough room in the prisons,” wrote one online commentator, Haiyan Baobei, before comments were blocked online.

Her arrest comes as Mr Xi is organising an anti-corruption drive, and highlights the limitations of the war on graft.

There is little in the way of public disclosure about the wealth of Chinese leaders.

Mr Xi, who became Communist Party chief in November and president in March, has called for a crackdown on graft, warning, as many of his predecessors have, that the problem is so extreme it could threaten the party’s survival.

Ms Liu’s daughter said her mother did not have much education and was a “warm-hearted big sister”, and she slammed the authorities for arresting her. “She likes to speak up for others. She is always ready to help those in need. She is interested in setting up a small business and has no big plans. How did she come to be someone charged with overthrowing state power?” she wrote. “How can a woman who was laid off by her employers and looked after a child herself as a single mother, with no job, overthrow the power of the state. So pathetic.”