China’s Top Graft Buster, Wang Qishan, Probing Thousands

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from The Wall Street Journal,

Anti-Corruption Drive Headed by a Heavy-Handed Communist Party Loyalist.

Wang Qishan, shown in 2012

When Wang Qishan, China’s top graft-buster, dispatched a dozen investigators to this south China river town last summer, his message was clear: The investigators should inspire “shock and awe” among local officials, according to an account posted on a government website.

Mr. Wang’s inspectors told local media they had settled in at a government-owned hotel. Within days, hundreds of residents lined up to give evidence about what they viewed as wrongdoing by corrupt local officials. Complaints also flooded in via the Internet, according to officials with knowledge of the matter.

Yang Peng, a restaurateur, says he told investigators he was jailed and tortured because of his association with an enemy of an important local mandarin who was accused of rigging the sale of a steel mill in exchange for kickbacks.

“Those were seven hellish months in my life,” he said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. A year later, the official he identified was fired and put under investigation by Mr. Wang’s team for graft.

China’s Communist Party is carrying out its broadest assault on corruption since the country opened its economy to the world in 1978, a step that lifted millions of Chinese out of poverty but also enabled party members to amass fortunes through political connections. The crackdown—which was launched in late 2012—is being overseen by Mr. Wang, a 66-year-old member of China’s ruling seven-person Politburo Standing Committee who has been friends of party chief Xi Jinping since both were banished to the Yan’an countryside during the Cultural Revolution.

The choice of Mr. Wang, who is known as one of China’s most savvy and efficient senior leaders, is an indication of how seriously Mr. Xi is taking the crackdown. A closer look at how Mr. Wang is executing his mandate shows just how wide-ranging the dragnet has become, even as concern spreads within the party that anticorruption efforts may be overreaching—and may damage China’s economy.

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