China's crusade against official corruption rolls on, as hundreds of government officials have been unceremoniously yanked from their posts over the preceding two years. But perhaps nowhere has the collateral damage been larger than in Yunnan, where it appears nearly all of the province's highest-ranking cadres from the past generation have been charged with some form of misconduct.
Add to this list Qiu He (仇和), the one-time Party Secretary of Kunming, who just six years ago, was honored in Beijing as a no-nonsense reformer. In a terse, 26-character news article, the Yunnan government announced Qiu stood accused of "serious violations of discipline and of the law". This phrase has unambiguously become synonymous with corruption and graft during the presidency of Xi Jinping.
While working as Kunming's highest ranking party member from 2007 to 2011, Qiu earned a reputation as a tough-minded, if sometimes intractable, bureaucrat. He once fired a fellow official for falling asleep during a meeting and reportedly required co-workers to learn hundreds of phrases in both English and Vietnamese in an effort to improve business relations with neighboring countries.
In addition to his reputation as a heavy-handed boss, Qiu got many things done — at times controversially. He approved the destruction of 18 second ring road overpasses and then ordered the entire length of the expressway be elevated. Construction on the enormous Changshui International Airport began under Qiu's watch, as did work on the city's ambitious subway. In one year, Qiu oversaw the planting of 800,000 trees as part of an urban greening campaign and converted many of the Spring City's major roads into one-way streets in an attempt to alleviate traffic congestion.
For much of this work, he was recognized as one of the country's "outstanding contributors to China's reform" in 2008 — just one year after taking office. He was honored alongside China's first astronaut, the 'Father of Hybrid Rice' and others. At the time, Qiu's future looked intensely bright.
However, after his first four years in office, a promotion was not offered and he was unexpectedly demoted in 2011. Although still a government official in Yunnan, Qiu labored in relative obscurity as one of Yunnan's many deputy party secretaries. He continued in this role until March 15, when, one day after attending meetings of the National People's Congress in Beijing, it was announced he was under investigation.
What the 58 year-old Qiu may end up being best known for — and what may have ultimately led to his undoing — was the demolition of massive swathes of Kunming's 'urban villages' (城中村) in 2008. Many of these older, poorly built neighborhoods occupied large tracts of the city center, and under Qiu's guidance, were cleared to make room for large-scale real estate projects. That some of those construction contracts were then awarded to companies in Qiu's native Jiangsu province is widely rumored to have figured in his political demise.
The Chinese government rarely makes announcements such as the one concerning Qiu without having ample evidence to back up its accusations. While his fate is yet to be decided, Qiu follows a who's who of former Yunnan officials who were dragged down by scandal.
Bai Enpei (白恩培), provincial party secretary from 2001 to 2011, was disgraced last September on charges identical to those leveled against Qiu, while Wen Qingliang (闻清良), former head of the Kunming Railway Bureau, narrowly escaped the death penalty in 2014 following his conviction for accepting bribes.
Before that, vice-governor Chen Peiping (沈培平) was also found guilty of graft and former Kunming Party Secretary Kong Chuizhu (孔垂柱) reportedly committed suicide while in custody and under investigation. Yunnan's highest ranking party official, Qin Guangrong (秦光荣), was removed from office without explanation five months ago, leading to speculation that he would be next in line to face allegations of corruption before Qiu He beat him to it.
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