China gives death penalty to former senior banking regulator for corruption

Domestic News

The death penalty — rare for white-collar crimes — was given to Lai Xiaomin, a former top Chinese banking official, as four other former senior officials had their corruption cases transferred to prosecutors.

Lai Xiaomin in 2015 as co-chairman of Huarong Asset Management. REUTERS/Bobby Yip.

The anti-corruption campaign of Chinese leader Xí Jìnpíng 习近平 is starting off its ninth year with a bang. A rare death penalty was given to one official, the former senior banking regulator Lài Xiǎomín 赖小民, and four other senior officials had their cases transferred to prosecutors.

Death penalty for Lai Xiaomin

Lai, the former chairman of Huarong Asset Management, “one of China’s four largest state-owned bad-debt managers…was sentenced to death for bribery on Tuesday by a court in North China’s Tianjin municipality,” Caixin reports.

  • He was “convicted of receiving or seeking bribes totaling 1.788 billion yuan ($276.72 million) from 2008 to 2018,” a record number, reports Reuters.
  • Lai’s other crimes included “bigamy and colluding with others to embezzle 25.1 million yuan [$3.89 million] of public funds,” the court said, per Caixin.

Capital punishment for white-collar crimes, including corruption at state-owned companies, is rare in China, and had been decreasing in frequency even as the country has long led the world in the total number of executions, the New York Times notes. Lai is “among the highest-profile figures to fall from grace” from the whole anti-corruption campaign, but why give this sentence now?

  • “This could be a message to the public that the Xi regime is still treating corruption as a serious issue, or it could be a message to the business elite in China that they need to keep their noses clean,” Joshua Rosenzweig, the deputy regional director for East and Southeast Asia at Amnesty International, told the NYT. “Or it could be a message to both.”

Meanwhile, “Four former senior officials have been punished and had their cases transferred to prosecutors after being investigated by the Chinese communist party’s internal disciplinary watchdog,” Caixin reports. Those officials:

  • Dèng Huīlín 邓恢林, the former police chief and deputy mayor of Chongqing.
  • Wén Guódòng 文国栋, the former deputy governor of Qinghai.
  • Luò Jiāmáng 骆家駹, the “former chief accountant of COFCO Corp., China’s largest food group.”
  • Hú Wènmíng 胡问鸣, the chairman of China Shipbuilding Industry Corp. Hu was expelled from the Communist Party today for offenses including “losing his faith and party spirit” and “illegally playing golf.”