A former powerful political figure in northern China who controlled a province’s entire security apparatus has been sentenced to prison roughly two years after he was placed under investigation.
Zhang Yue, the former party secretary of the Political and Legal Affairs Commission (PLAC) in northern China’s Hebei Province, was handed a 15-year sentence with a fine of 5 million yuan ($749,940) by the Changzhou City Intermediate People’s Court in Jiangsu Province, according to the website of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI), the Chinese Communist Party’s internal anti-corruption watchdog, on July 12.
The court found that from 2008 to 2016, while serving as head of the Hebei provincial police before becoming head of the provincial PLAC, Zhang helped unnamed individuals to make profits in real estate development, construction projects, and legal cases. He also helped others get job promotions. In return for his help, Zhang pocketed bribes totaling 156.9 million yuan (about $25.5 million).
According to CCDI’s report, Zhang admitted to the charges at court and said he would not file an appeal.
In April 2016, the CCDI announced that Zhang was placed under investigation for “seriously violating Party discipline.” At the time, the anti-corruption watchdog did not specify his wrongdoings.
The Chinese court has failed to identify his most serious crime: committing human rights violations.
The U.S.-based nonprofit World Organization to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong (WOIPFG) has collected evidence that Zhang is responsible for the persecution of at least 10 adherents of Falun Gong in China.
Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is an ancient spiritual practice with slow, meditative exercises and moral teachings. The practice was extremely popular in the 1990s, with official estimates of 70 million to 100 million adherents by 1999.
Then-Party leader Jiang Zemin, believing the practice’s popularity would threaten his grip on power, ordered a nationwide persecution on July 20, 1999. Since then, the official press office for Falun Gong, the Falun Dafa Information Center, estimates that millions of adherents have become victims of imprisonment, torture, brainwashing, forced labor, and other abuses.
Before starting his political tenure in Hebei in 2008, Zhang was chief of the country’s “anti-cult” bureau, also known as the “610 Office,” from November 2003 to December 2007. The 610 Office is an extralegal, secret police force established by Jiang to specifically carry out the persecution of Falun Gong—often by tracking down and abducting adherents for detention.