A court in central China’s Hubei province today began hearing the case of Jiang Jiemin, the former chairman of China’s biggest oil company who also briefly headed a government commission that oversees state-owned firms.
Though Mr. Jiang may not be a household name, his trial marks the most senior-level prosecution of a Communist Party official in President Xi Jinping’s anticorruption drive, which has targeted both large state industries and their political backers over the past two years.
Far more important than his past role as head of the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission was Mr. Jiang’s previous tenure as chairman of China National Petroleum Corp. Following his appointment to that role in 2011, CNPC’s revenue rose, and it grew to rival Exxon Mobil Corp. in total market value.
Mr. Jiang was tapped to head Sasac in 2013, just as several other oil-company executives were becoming ensnared in corruption allegations or disappeared from view.
While Sasac oversees state-owned companies, in practice analysts say it is weaker than the larger, clout-wielding companies it supervises.
Mr. Jiang’s trial is being closely watched in part to see if it yields any details about the circumstances surrounding the downfall of Zhou Yongkang, the country’s granite-faced former security chief, who was formally charged with bribery and abuse of power earlier this month. Mr. Jiang had risen through the ranks of the country’s oil industry under Mr. Zhou.
It is also being watched for further details of corruption investigations involving other politicians and officials in the country’s oil industry, a key target for Mr. Xi’s campaign. The trial began at 8:30 a.m. Monday and was announced in a brief notice on the Hubei Hanjiang Intermediate People’s Court Weibo account. Without elaborating, the court said Mr. Jiang faces charges in connection to bribe-taking, holding a large amount of property that came from unidentified sources and abuse of power.
The court said Mr. Jiang has a lawyer and didn’t object to the charges that include taking bribes, holding assets from unexplained sources and abusing his power.
Like Mr. Jiang, Mr. Zhou had previously served as the head of CNPC. A wide network of Mr. Zhou’s acquaintances and family members have been caught up in a far-flung investigation involving deals in areas where Mr. Zhou oversaw power, involving deals worth tens of millions or more.
Officials of Mr. Zhou’s standing have traditionally been considered off limits, but under Mr. Xi, that is changing.
Mr. Zhou is expected to face trial as are other associates, including Li Chuncheng, former deputy party secretary of Sichuan, who worked under Mr. Zhou from 1999-2002