Head of China’s aerospace investment firm arrested over alleged assault on scientists

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The chairman of a China’s state-owned aerospace investment firm who allegedly beat up two senior scientists has been formally arrested by Beijing police.

Zhang Tao was also dismissed by his company, China Aerospace Investment Holdings, and expelled from the Communist Party, state media reported on Monday.

Zhang Tao was the chairman and party secretary of China Aerospace Investment Holdings. Photo: Handout
Zhang Tao was the chairman and party secretary of China Aerospace Investment Holdings. Photo: Handout

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The report said Zhang, 57, faced charges of intentional assault.

Zhang’s arrest came two weeks after he was detained for allegedly assaulting Wang Jinnian, a 54-year-old scientist, during an argument outside Wang’s home in early June. The police said another scientist, Wu Meirong, 85, was injured when she tried to intervene during the argument.

Wang Jinnian (left) and Wu Meirong. Photo: Handout
Wang Jinnian (left) and Wu Meirong. Photo: Handout

Both Wang and Wu are members of the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA), an international non-governmental organisation based in Stockholm. Wu is on the IAA’s board of trustees.

China News Weekly reported earlier this month that Zhang allegedly attacked the two scientists on June 6 because they turned down his request to recommend him for IAA membership.

Wang was diagnosed with broken ribs and bruises and Wu was treated for a fractured spine, according to China News Weekly.

The incident became public about a month after the attack.

Many Chinese netizens have questioned the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) handling of Zhang’s case, saying it did not react promptly to online complaints about Zhang’s behaviour until the end of June.

CASC issued an internal memo on July 2 asking all the group’s employees “to strictly observe political discipline and rules, not to spread this incident further”. CASC is the parent company of CAIH.

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Many online posts regarding Zhang’s alleged attack on the two academics were censored on Chinese online platforms.

“Now, Zhang Tao has been expelled from the party and dismissed from the company, we want to ask the authorities to further investigate this case. Who gave the order to delete the posts regarding Zhang? Have there been any under-the-table dealings going on?” asked one person on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like microblogging platform.

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