Wanting Qu, the Vancouver-based Chinese pop star and former girlfriend of the Canadian city’s married mayor, has issued an update on her mother’s long-delayed death-penalty case, saying she is “waiting in silence” because she believes Chinese law to be “perfect and righteous”.
Qu Zhang Mingjie, a former planning official in Harbin city, Heilongjiang, was arrested in 2014 and tried in July 2016 on charges of corruption, accused of embezzling about 350 million yuan (US$55 million) in a real estate scam which saw a state-owned corn farm transferred to a private firm for redevelopment in 2009. Chinese media said the deal left hundreds of workers, already living on the farm, in dire conditions, denied millions of yuan in compensation and with the heat to their dorms shut off in sub-zero conditions.
Zhang vigorously denied the charges, and said her confession was extracted illegally. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
In a statement issued on her Weibo page on Wednesday, Wanting Qu said no judgment had been issued since the trial, conducted over just two days by the Harbin City Intermediate People's Court.
“It has been 3 years and 6 months since my mom was taken away on September 22, 2014. There is no point I wouldn’t feel pain, having seen the loss of my mother this way. However, each country has its own law. I believe that the court would hand down a ruling according to law. This is also the only reason I'm waiting in silence,” said Qu.
Listen: Wanting Qu’s single “Your Girl”, a tribute to her mother Qu Zhang Mingjie. The song was released in July 2016, when Zhang went on trial for corruption in China
Chinese courts have recently had a conviction rate of 99.9 per cent, but Qu said she was “grateful to the court for giving judgment of acquittal for a number of cases in recent years”.
“So I believe the law is perfect and righteous. I believe there are righteous judges, lawyers, and leaders, and that they will act according to the law. No matter how hard it is, they'd treat my mother fairly.”
The court has issued no statement on the trial since it concluded on July 20, 2016.
Qu alluded to internet speculation about the case, asking that “kind-hearted netizens” not “cook up a story … to add insult to injury”.
In an account of Zhang’s trial carried by the official Xinhua news agency, she was accused of deceiving farm officials into signing a deal in 2009 transferring the property into the hands of the private Harbin Dongjiang Agricultural Technology Co. The contract was said to have been doctored to illegally include land-use rights.
It said Zhang conspired with Wei Qi, an official from Harbin Dongjiang, to split hundreds of millions of yuan in profits when the land was later transferred to a real estate company controlled by Wei, who had plans to transform the site into a huge apartment complex.
Private media outlets covering the trial reported that the real estate company, Harbin Xianfa Real Estate Development Co, hired Zhang’s brother as deputy general manager of the project.
According to a separate account by thepaper.cn, the proposed redevelopment necessitated the eviction of 420 staff and 146 retired workers who lived in dormitories on the 50-hectare farm.
Xinhua said Zhang failed to enforce the payment of resettlement fees to the workers, and instead allowed Dongjiang Co “to unlawfully transfer 61.6 million yuan into a bank account which was opened under the name of the farm, which was actually controlled by Dongjiang.”
Thepaper.cn said one veteran employee who had worked on the farm for 20 years only received 2,000 yuan in severance. The report said Harbin Dongjiang halted pensions and health insurance to the workers in 2009 and shut down the dormitory’s boiler room; with January low temperatures averaging minus-24 Celsius, frozen pipes burst and workers resorted to coal fires to try to stay warm.
“The court was told that Zhang had not only breached her duty as a civil servant, but also committed the crimes of embezzling public properties worth an enormous amount of money,” Xinhua reported.
In her Weibo statement, Qu said she had no choice but to believe in the court. “Because if I don’t, is there still any hope? Being hopeless is equal to death. I don't want to die now. I still have many wishes to fulfil. I want to achieve them one by one in the future.”
On February 15, Qu sent a Chinese New Year message on Weibo, apparently to her mother, saying “I believe there is rule of law and justice in the world. I miss you. Sending you my love.”
Qu did not respond to a request for further comment made to her Canadian record label, Nettwerk.
Qu, 34, dated Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson from about July 2014 until about May 2017, with Qu celebrating their 18-month anniversary on social media on January 23, 2016. Robertson, now 53, had separated from wife Amy in mid-2014.
The Hongcouver blog is devoted to the hybrid culture of its namesake cities: Hong Kong and Vancouver. All story ideas and comments are welcome. Connect with me by email email@example.com or on Twitter, @ianjamesyoung70.