Corrupt officials become internet sensation due to massive wealth
Published: Mar 30, 2021 11:18 PM
Screenshot from Sina Weibo

Screenshot from Sina Weibo

Officials convicted of corruption in Northeast China’s Heilongjiang Province have become an internet sensation due to the extent of their wealth, including more than 100 luxury cars and funds equivalent to 3 billion yuan ($470 million). 

Li Wei, former deputy director of Harbin Electric Power Bureau, a subsidiary of State Grid Corporation of China, and his two younger brothers were charged. One of the younger brothers was in charge of electric power projects in Harbin, capital of Heilongjiang, and the other ran several electrical installation companies. Together, they controlled 77 percent of the local power system. 

The Li brothers were suspected of a total of 24 criminal offences, including intentional injury, forced transactions, and assembling a crowd to engage in sexual promiscuity. Li Wei and his brother Li Tong were both sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve. 

The three brothers’ offenses came to light in a program that state broadcaster CCTV aired on Monday, covering the Chinese government’s campaign against corruption. 

The program revealed the lavish lives of the Li brothers, including the large quantity of antiques found at their homes and luxury cars including a Rolls-Royce, Bentley and limited-edition Chrysler Hunter found at their parking lots with an estimated value of nearly 100 million yuan. 

The Li brothers also owned a total of 69 properties. 

The wealth of the brothers and their conspicuous consumption appalled the public. On China’s social media platform Sina Weibo, a hashtag of “corrupt officials found to have hundreds of luxury cars like an auto show” was trending with 60 million views and 18,000 comments as of press time. 

“I thought I already knew how wealthy corrupt officials can be, but clearly I was wrong,” read one comment from a Weibo user. 
Police found that the Li brothers ran illegal subcontracting projects worth more than 3.16 billion yuan.

According to the investigation, Li Wei usually assigned the power supply projects to his brother Li Tong, former general manager of Harbin Electric Power Industrial Group Corporation, who would later subcontract them out to their brother Li Jian. 

With power at the government level and projects at the enterprise level, the three brothers formed an “electronic empire” in Harbin.

"Whichever companies wanted electricity had to go through the Li brothers first. If you applied for electricity in the normal way, it could not be provided, but you could directly ask the Li brothers for power supply," said a victim in the TV program, adding that people would also get beaten and kicked out of the city if they did not follow orders. 

Reports showed that the brothers had also taken drugs and raped a girl under the age of 14. They also bribed the police into getting them a minor punishment of 5,000 yuan. 

Li Wei was a worker at an electric power installation company in Harbin in his youth and made his way to the position of assistant to the director general of Harbin Electric Power Bureau in 2010 before rising further in the ranks.