Chinese official suspected of defecting


BEIJING — A middle-ranking Chinese communist party official has not returned from an official visit to Paris, state media reported Wednesday, amid increasing speculation he has defected to France.

Yang Xianghong, a party official in Wenzhou, a city in east China’s Zhejiang province, failed to return from the trip at the beginning of October, according to a report published on the website of CCTV, China’s national television.

Yang claimed to have had to stay in Paris because of an old back problem that had resurfaced when he was away, the report said, quoting a local newspaper.

According to a story published in Oriental Outlook, an official weekly magazine, Yang received a phone call from the Zhejiang disciplinary inspection body at the end of September, three days before he left on the trip.

The disciplinary inspection body handles wrongdoing among party members, including corruption.

The report made no mention of the content of the phone call, but said that two days into the trip in Paris, Yang left the tour group to visit his daughter who lives in the French capital.

The report also said that Yang’s son-in-law had handed over a resignation letter written by Yang to a member of the tour group at the end of the trip to give to the local government in Wenzhou.

But the city’s party secretary denied he had ever received the letter, according to China News Service, a semi-official news agency.

It would not be the first time that a Chinese official from Wenzhou had defected abroad, according to the Oriental Outlook report.

Yang Xiuzhu, once the deputy mayor of Wenzhou, fled abroad in April 2003, never to be seen again.

The local government has sent an official and a doctor to France “probably to persuade Yang to come back, but there is hardly any hope,” the report said, citing a source close to the situation.