China’s cold case playground murder nets 19 officials in corruption cover-up

Zhuang Pinghui

Nineteen officials in China’s central Hunan province – including 11 from the police force and six from the county government – have been sacked or are waiting to be charged for their roles in covering up a murder 16 years ago.

The remains of Deng Shiping, who was 53 when he disappeared in 2003, were uncovered in June this year, buried beneath a playground at Xinhuang No 1 Middle School in Huaihua city.

The find was a vindication for Deng’s family who have campaigned for an investigation ever since he went missing after making allegations of corruption about a building project at the school. Despite reporting his disappearance and their suspicions about the project’s contractor Du Shaoping – the last person seen with Deng – no action was taken by police.

The breakthrough came in April when the family appealed to an inspection team which had arrived in Hunan as part of a national crackdown on organised crime and the “protection umbrellas” of corrupt officials who turn a blind eye.

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In June, Du confessed to the murder while in detention for other, unrelated, offences and both he and his foreman Luo Guangzhong were prosecuted for the crime.

On Tuesday, People’s Daily reported that investigations into others in the public service who had helped Du cover up the murder had been completed. They included Huang Bingsong, Du’s uncle and the school principal at the time.

Huang was found to have bribed Yuang Jun, then political commissioner of the Xinhuang county public security bureau, who interrupted, misled and obstructed investigations so that Du escaped justice. Yuang has been sacked and expelled from the Communist Party while Huang, has since retired. Both face formal prosecution.

Five investigators from the Xinhuang police who were directly involved in the original investigation, were found to have taken bribes from Huang and failed to perform their duties. The five were sacked, expelled from the party and are waiting for formal prosecution for dereliction of duty.

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Their bosses, the Xinhuang county police chief and his deputy have also been sacked, expelled from the party and are waiting to be prosecuted for failing to perform their duties.

Nine other officials – including Wang Hua, then police chief of the administering city Huaihua, Wang Xingshui, then Xinhuang county party secretary, Wu Shaokun, then chief prosecutor of Xinhuang county – were expelled from the party, disciplined or sacked.

The case has been treated as a priority and is being used as an exemplar in the national crackdown on organised crime.

Chen Yixin, director in charge of the campaign with the Committee of Political and Legal Affairs of the Communist Party of China, went to Hunan two weeks ago to inspect the investigation and ordered that it should be a “cast-iron case”.

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