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How Tianjin’s Top Cop Built Web of Corruption Over 40 Years

The fall of the public security chief, Wu Changshun, of the northern port city of Tianjin has rocked the local public security system and shed light on the graft network cultivated by Wu over 40 years.

The Central Discipline Inspection Commission (CDIC) said in a statement on July 20 that Wu, chief of the Tianjin Public Security Bureau and vice chairman of the city's political advisory body, was being investigated for "serious discipline violations." The phrase usually means corruption.

Wu, 60, is a veteran Tianjin police officer. He has spent 44 years in the public security system and was the head of the city's public security bureau for 11 years.

Caixin learned that the investigation into Wu is aimed at suspicions that he illegally benefited from the public security and transportation departments' equipment acquisition deals and license issuance for vehicles and drivers.

A source close to the Tianjin public security system said there were signs Wu's sacking was coming. On July 16, the former chief and Communist Party head of Wuhan Public Security Bureau in Hubei Province, Zhao Fei, was named to replace Wu as the party head of the Tianjin bureau.

For a long time, Wu has been both the chief and party head of the Tianjin bureau, but "he was suddenly removed as the party head and two days later, he was replaced as the bureau chief," the source said.

According to the source, Wu was detained on July 19 or early the next day. On the morning of July 20, officials raided the apartment of Wu's daughter in downtown Tianjin and confiscated items filling two trucks.

Caixin learned that two apartments owned by Wu in Tianjin were also sealed.

The inquiry into Wu came after a routine inspection by the CDIC. On July 8, Wang Mingfang, director of the CDIC's No. 5 inspection team, reported to Tianjin officials that a recent inquiry found graft in the city's government departments and state-owned enterprises, and there was evidence some top officials were involved. Wang said the team submitted findings to the CDIC for further investigation.

Cash From Drivers

As a Tianjin native, Wu joined the local traffic police in 1970 after graduation from the Tianjin Police School. He rose through the ranks and was head of the Traffic Management Bureau between 1992 and 2003. In February 2003, he was named the chief of the city's public security bureau.

Wu's 11 year-tenure in the Traffic Management Bureau accompanied a boom in business operations controlled by the public security system. Local bureaus set up a wide range of companies involved in road maintenance, equipment manufacturing and purchase, security systems, and parking lots.

It was not until late 2009, under the requirements of the central government that business operations of government agencies be rectified, that the 48 companies backed by the Tianjin public security system were transferred to the city's regulator of state-owned assets.

Sources from the Tianjin public security system said Wu used some of these companies to seek personal benefits.

One of them was the Tianjin Automobile Drivers Association, which was established in 1993 and which offers services including driving training, car maintenance and consulting. Wu, then head of the Traffic Management Bureau, was the legal representative and chairman of the association when it was established. According to the association, 1.4 million out of 1.7 million registered drivers in Tianjin have become members of the association.

However, many local drivers complain that joining the association has become compulsory to obtain a driver license in the city and that membership fees are required.

One driver said that according to local rules drivers must pay as much as 320 yuan per year, including a membership fee for the association and vehicle management fees, to get their licenses.

In 2006, a private auto service company, Tianjin Yiyou Automobile Service Co., filed a lawsuit against the Traffic Management Bureau complaining that its operations violated the law. Yiyou said the Tianjin Automobile Drivers Association pockets up to 30 million yuan for membership fees every year.

It also said that the extra charge for driver registration and car management totals up to 100 million every year in the city.

Traffic Deals

Several sources in Tianjin said traffic infrastructure manufacturer Tianjin Zhengzhi Traffic Equipment Co. is another major platform for Wu to channel personal gains.

Established in September 1997, Tianjin Zhengzhi is jointly held by two companies owned by the city's public security bureau with registered capital of 6 million yuan. The company has seen frequent shareholder changes, and in 2014 its registered capital increased to 30 million yuan. Tianjin Zhengzhi has been a major player and frequent winner in local transportation facility bidding.

Tianjin Zhengzhi's business has covered mostly all aspects of transportation, from road facilities manufacturing to outdoor advertisements and car plate production. Company documents show that Tianjin Zhengzhi's current legal representative is Zhang Shidi, Director of Transportation Facility department of the Tianjin Traffic Management Bureau.

Also under public scrutiny is Tianjin Lianhua Parking Lot Co., a subsidiary of Tianjin Lianhua Group, which was controlled by the Tianjin Public Security Bureau.

Lianhua Parking Lot Co. has controlled the city's parking lot business and triggered wide complaints from local residents.

In 2013, Li Zijian, a representative of a district people's congress in Tianjin posted a blog criticizing the Lianhua Parking Lot Co., a complaint that was reposted by many Internet users. But the post soon caused trouble for Li as police officers blamed him for tarnishing the reputation of local public security officials.

A source close to the situation said that Li was interrogated by police several times and asked to write a letter to Wu apologizing.

On February 25, the Tianjin Public Security Bureau said in a public statement that Li had been warned and punished for spreading rumors and defaming local police.

Caixin tried to contact Li but was unable to.

Local sources said that since March, more than ten people have been interrogated by police for reposting Li's posts about Lianhua Parking Lot Co.

There have also been rumors that Wu was linked to cases involving his former supervisors, Li Baojin and Song Pingshun.

Li, who was the top prosecutor in Tianjin, was handed a suspended death sentence in 2007 for taking bribes and embezzlement.

Song committed suicide in June 2006 after being investigated for graft. Song was accused of abusing his power and seeking profits for his mistress, Xu Min. Xu operated three companies involved in maintaining firefighting equipment and automobile testing.

Caixin found that most of Xu's large orders came from the city's public security departments. Wu was the legal representative of the Tianjin Driver Adaptive Testing Center, which Xu operated to handle the city's driver's license examination and health checks.

Topics: 
Business, Politics
Keywords: 
Corruption, Graft, Tianjin