Imprisoned Chinese Journalist Who Uncovered Political Scam Fights to Get Sentence Overturned

Gao Qinrong was just a typical reporter at the state-run Xinhua News – a media outlet that happens to be in controlled by the Chinese government. The puppet to the Chinese Communist Party’s puppeteer, if you will. 

In the mid-1990’s, however, Gao defied his role as dutiful “reporter” for the CCP and instead exposed a huge political scam – an act that cost him 12 years of his life.

Working at Xinhua News’ Yuncheng branch at the time, Gao’s investigation into the city’s embarkment on a new water-conserving irrigation system revealed that the entire operation was a sham.

In 1995, the Yuncheng county government earmarked 280 million yuan (over $42.1 million) for the construction of a water storage system. The project – which had initially been developed by a local farmer – was part of new technology capable of covering over one million mu (66,666 hectares, or 164,735 acres) of farmland. The money was also supposed to be used to build water facilities.

But the enormous amount of cash did no such thing.

While investigating this matter, Gao discovered that the storage system did not exist. Furthermore, the government had placed half-built water tanks along the road solely to have the appearance that a vast irrigation system was there.

Gao sought the help of Gao Manqiang, a liaison officer for the Yuncheng government in Beijing, and through this means, the scandalous report reached the hands of senior central leadership in 1998. The exposure created public outcry.

Following the release of the story, Gao Qinrong was charged – but not for anything remotely to do with his journalistic work. Instead, the government charged Gao with soliciting prostitution, bribery, and fraud. He was investigated by the Shanxi Provincial Commission for Discipline Inspection and detained, the South China Morning Post reported.

Gao’s “accomplice”, Gao Manqiang, was also charged for a separate matter and convicted of forging government seals and running scams. He was sentenced to nine years in jail and was released in 2003 after serving eight years.

Gao Qinrong was released in 2006 after serving 12 years in a Chinese prison. Gao, now 66 years old, is fighting to have his conviction overturned, claiming that the harsh sentence he was given was in retaliation for the massive scandal he unveiled to the world – one which put the Chinese Communist Party in the light for criticism. And we all know China does not react well to that.

Both men are appealing to the local Yuncheng court to review and rehear their cases.