Liu Han case: Questions for China's leaders

Liu Han, former chairman of Hanlong Mining, smokes a cigarette during a conference in Mianyang, Sichuan province, in this file picture taken 21 March 2008 Tycoon Liu Han is believed to have links to China's former security chief Zhou Yongkang's family

Related Stories

The Chinese public is a long-suffering witness to the often corrupt relationship between political power and business at the local level. But this case demonstrates that the problem is not just local and not just about power and money but about savage criminality as well.

Murder, illegal detention and blackmail were all part of Liu Han's business culture, but that didn't stop him serving as a delegate on a senior provincial political advisory body.

The case raises other sobering questions for China's political leaders. The court said the crimes were atrocious and their influence vile. So why were they allowed to continue unchecked for 20 years?

Partly because the gang won high-level political backing, but partly because its membership included officials from police and prosecutors' offices. The price for one-party politics with no independent judicial system or media scrutiny.

File photo: Chinese President Xi Jinping Mr Xi's anti-corruption campaign produces regular revelations about wrongdoing in public office
Beyond borders

The impact of the Liu Han story also stretches beyond China's borders. His companies owned stakes in Australian and US mines. As other big Chinese companies invest globally, foreign partners will think hard about the business risks of who in China to work with.

How does the case fit into top level political infighting? It's hard to know for sure, but it will raise more questions about the former security chief Zhou Yongkang.

Liu Han is believed to have been a business associate of Zhou Yongkang's family. For several months, it's been unclear whether the former security chief would face criminal proceedings on charges of corruption and abuse of power. Many in China will wonder if today's verdicts are a precursor to what would be the most serious political corruption case in China's communist history.

In short, while President Xi Jinping's anti-corruption campaign produces an almost daily stream of sensational revelations about wrongdoing in public office, it is also underlining the difficulties of keeping politics clean in a one-party state with a burgeoning economy. And among the Chinese public, it is feeding the growing complaint that crony capitalism is strangling China's public life.

BBC graphic showing Zhou Yongkang's sphere of influence
Carrie Gracie Article written by Carrie Gracie Carrie Gracie BBC China editor

China Week: Emissions, executions and broken dreams

US interest, execution figures and exploited camels: The BBC's Carrie Gracie takes a look at what's been making headlines across China this week.

Read full article

More on This Story

Features & Analysis

Elsewhere on the BBC

  • FutureThe future is now

    Get the latest updates and biggest ideas from BBC Future’s World-Changing Ideas Summit

Programmes

  • A virtual girlfriendClick Watch

    Using the latest tech to find friends on a night out and meet a virtual girlfriend

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.