Human Rights in China (HRIC) has learned that more than 100 displaced Shanghai residents, along with rights defense lawyer Zheng Enchong, have signed a petition demanding a public trial for Shanghai property tycoon Zhou Zhengyi (known in Hong Kong as Chau Ching-ngai), and for an opportunity for residents to testify at Zhou’s trial.
Sources in China told HRIC that Zhou will go on trial later this month at the Shanghai Municipal Higher People’s Court on charges of bribery and forging tax invoices, but that the court has not yet released any further details regarding the trial. Most of the signatories to the letter, sent on July 5 to Teng Yilong, President of the Shanghai Municipal Higher People’s Court, are former residents of the redeveloped Dongbakuai neighborhood, and are demanding an in-depth investigation into Zhou’s alleged connections with corrupt Shanghai officials. (The full text of the letter is appended to the Chinese version of this press release.)
Zhou Zhengyi’s defense counsel reportedly include prominent lawyer Tao Wuping, Zhai Jian and the chairman of Shanghai Bar Association, Lü Hongbing. The court has not yet responded to the petition letter or to media requests to attend the trial. Displaced residents continue to monitor the electronic notice board at the court entrance for further news of the trial.
In 2004, Zhou Zhengyi, former president of Shanghai-based property firm Nongkai Development Group, was sentenced to three years in prison for various crimes, including accounting fraud and stock price manipulation. He was released in May 2006 upon completion of his prison term (which included time served pre-trial), but soon after that, a corruption scandal erupted in Shanghai, resulting in the dismissal of Shanghai Party Secretary Chen Liangyu and a raft of other officials in September 2006. Zhou Zhengyi was detained again on new allegations and formally arrested on January 21, 2007.
According to information released by the Shanghai Municipal People’s Procuratorate, Zhou is currently being held at the Shanghai No. 1 Detention Center for suspected involvement in embezzlement of the Shanghai Social Security Fund. In late December 2006, Huang Jian, director of the detention center where Zhou was previously held, was detained on allegations of taking bribes from Zhou Zhengyi’s family members. Tang Haigen, Zhou Zhengyi’s brother-in-law, was also investigated by the Shanghai Municipal People’s Procuratorate on December 29, 2006 for suspected misappropriation of company funds.
Former Dongbaikuai residents claim that Zhou Zhengyi conspired with Shanghai’s Jing’an District Government officials to illicitly obtain rights to develop 170,000 square meters of land that eventually became part of the 630,000-square-meter Shanghai Jing’an International Community Project, which involved a total investment of 5 billion yuan. Sources told HRIC that Zhou Zhengyi’s partner in this project was Chen Liangjun, younger brother of former Shanghai Party Secretary Chen Liangyu. The developers reportedly paid nothing for the rights to develop Jing’an District Areas 56, 57 and 58 in the Dongbaikuai neighborhood under the terms of their contract with the district government.
HRIC supports the calls of the displaced residents for a public trial for Zhou Zhengyi to allow for greater transparency to ensure that justice is done in this important case. HRIC has consistently reported on the rights defense efforts of displaced Shanghai residents, and the continued harassment of lawyer Zheng Enchong following his release from prison in 2006. The intense redevelopment of Shanghai has contributed to violations of the property and personal rights of displaced residents accompanied by reports of official corruption at all levels of the Shanghai government. With a new leadership in place following last year’s corruption scandal, the Shanghai authorities have an opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to protecting the rights of Shanghai residents in accordance with property rights protections recently introduced into Chinese law and the Chinese Constitution. The new trial of Zhou Zhengyi also gives local authorities an opportunity to show their resolve in exposing and eliminating all vestiges of corruption within the system.
For previous HRIC reporting on Zheng Enchong and the impacts of redevelopment in Shanghai, see:
“House Arrest of Zheng Enchong, Mass Detention of Petitioners for Party Congress,” October 16, 2006, http://www.hrichina.org/public/contents/31085.
“Shanghai Residents File Formal Complaint Suggesting Official Collusion in Zhou Zhengyi Fraud,” August 30, 2006, http://www.hrichina.org/public/contents/30465.
“Zheng Enchong Detained Again,” July 12, 2006, http://www.hrichina.org/public/contents/29514.
“Shanghai Lawyer Zheng Enchong Under De Facto House Arrest,” June 28, 2006, http://www.hrichina.org/public/contents/29431.
“Zheng Enchong Released Amidst Crackdown on Petitioners,” June 5, 2006, http://www.hrichina.org/public/contents/29175.
“Special Procedures Imposed on Zheng Enchong’s Release from Prison,” June 1, 2006, http://www.hrichina.org/public/contents/28063.
“Imprisoned Lawyer Zheng Enchong Receives Human Rights Award from German Judges,” December 8, 2005, http://www.hrichina.org/public/contents/26317.
“Prisoner Profile: Zheng Enchong,” CRF No. 4, 2003, http://www.hrichina.org/public/contents/9993.