In a dramatic revelation that highlights the growing power of organized crime in mainland China, a state newspaper said the former mayor of one of the country’s biggest cities was suspected of links to triad gangs.
Mu Suixin, 57, resigned from his powerful position as mayor of the northeastern industrial city of Shenyang amid a spreading corruption scandal involving his ex-wife and top officials.
His departure was announced on Friday, just as details emerged of a hostage drama in the city in which a gangster on China’s most-wanted list and the son of senior city official were shot and killed.
The Yangcheng Evening News, in an edition seen in Beijing on Saturday, said Mu was under investigation for suspected involvement in triad gangs and gambling.
China has launched a nationwide crackdown on the resurgent power of triads — secret societies formed to overthrow the last imperial dynasty, the Manchus.
In modern times, the gangs have taken root in Hong Kong, Macau and among overseas Chinese communities where they control drug smuggling, prostitution and protection rackets.
According to the Yangcheng Evening News, based in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou, triads have “run rampant” in Shenyang, once a center of Chinese state-owned heavy industry but now one of the most depressed cities in China filled with unemployed workers.
Thousands of jobless young women in Shenyang have turned to prostitution, and hopelessness has bred drug addiction and crime. Social breakdown has provided fertile ground for triads.
Mu ostensibly resigned for health reasons, but as his administration collapsed around him earlier this year the paper said he admitted during a Communist Party meeting he had “seriously neglected his duties”.
His deputy, Ma Xiangdong, was arrested for gambling 40 million yuan (US$4.8 million) of public money in casinos in the former Portuguese-run enclave of Macau.
That case dragged in the top city prosecutor, the deputy president of the Intermediate People’s Court and Mu’s onetime wife, all of whom have been arrested.
At the same time, the newspaper said, Mu was under pressure because of his inability to turn around the city’s economy that is dominated by Soviet-era factories, many of them now boarded-up.
And Mu seemed helpless to curb the power of gangs.
Now Mu himself is under investigation, the paper said. His links to gangs and gambling are suspected of extending “inside and outside the country”.
He was replaced in an acting capacity on Friday by Chen Zhenggao, the Vice Governor of Liaoning province.
The flamboyant Mu, a chain smoker, worked hard to put his city on the map for foreign investors. He travelled to Europe to try to drum up enthusiasm among business executives, hired foreign investment advisers and organized international cultural events to try to attract tourists.
But the city descended into lawlessness, which erupted this week in a hostage crisis.
The drama began on Wednesday when two triad gangsters, one wanted for murder, burst into the home of the son of a top city official. The man’s wife and nursemaid were stabbed but managed to escape and raise the alarm.
After a 23 hour standoff, police entered the apartment to find two bodies — the official’s son and the wanted gangster — both with gunshot wounds. The second gangster lay seriously wounded.
Chinese state media have not named the top official.
But Hong Kong’s Ming Pao newspaper identified him as former mayor Wang Danbo. It also identified the dead gangster as the son of a former Shenyang Communist Party committee secretary general.