China: 6 Communist party members face death charge

Symbols of the China Communist Party flag in a field in China's Zhejiang province, near where Mr Yu died. Picture: Getty
Symbols of the China Communist Party flag in a field in China's Zhejiang province, near where Mr Yu died. Picture: Getty
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CHINESE prosecutors have charged six men over the death of a state industry executive who was allegedly forced into ice water during internal investigations by the Communist Party.

The charge sheet, details of which were widely published in Chinese media, describes how 42-year-old Yu Qiyi drowned after having his head repeatedly pushed into a bucket of iced water.

Mr Yu was detained on 1 March by agents from the party’s corruption watchdog in the eastern province of Zhejiang and died 38 days later after being rushed to a hospital. While under questioning, he was held in a detention centre run by the party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, a body that critics say operates without legal constraints and frequently coerces confessions from those under investigation.

The six men – five investigators from the commission and one local prosecutor – were charged with intentional harming in the 30 August indictment, although Mr Yu’s widow Wu Qian said yesterday she believes there is enough evidence to charge them with murder.

“From the start, I’d hoped the case could be resolved under the law and the perpetrators held accountable and severely punished, but sometimes that’s hard to do in China,” Mrs Wu said in a phone interview.

Mrs Wu said at the time of his death her husband was emaciated, with bruises on his arms and thighs, dark welts on his buttocks and scrapes on his feet and shins. While that appeared to indicate that he was starved and beaten, the indictment made no mention of other forms of torture besides dunking.

It wasn’t clear when the case would go to trial, and a man at the prosecutor’s office in the Zhejiang city of Quzhou, where the indictment was issued, said he had no information about the case.

Well-known Beijing human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang, who has advised on the case, said there was little for Mrs Wu’s legal team to do but watch the case proceed. He said Mr Yu’s death was not an isolated incident.

“The accused believe that they were performing their duties, and as far as I know torture is widely used in interrogation by party disciplinary officials across the country,” Mr Pu said. “They had to have authorisation from their supervisors for what they did, and it is not fair for only them to get blamed.”

Mr Yu’s death has drawn attention to the party’s feared system of internal investigation under which suspects disappear into detention for weeks or months with little or no notice given to their families.

Defenders of the system say it allows investigators to prevent powerful officials from using their influence to block legal action against them.

Trained as an engineer, Mr Yu did not seem to have that kind of power. A party member since 1998, he had been a rising figure in the state-owned Wenzhou Industry Investment Group and had been seconded to the cabinet agency in Beijing that oversees China’s biggest state-owned companies.

He was picked up by investigators upon arriving home from Beijing on 1 March. Mrs Wu was never given formal notice of his detention, but learned from private sources that he was suspected of being a middleman in a corrupt land deal that eventually fell through.