Xi Jinping has locked up so many of China's elite the state is running out of prison spaces for them

China Photos/Getty Images
  • One of China’s elite prisons has become overcrowded with political prisoners in response to President Xi Jinping’s increased crackdown on corruption.
  • News of the prisons at-capacity status came at a particularly important time, as the jail reportedly cancelled its Chinese New Year’s celebrations.
  • China’s president began his anti-corruption graft shortly after taking office in late 2012.

One of China’s elite prisons has become overcrowded with political prisoners due to President Xi Jinping’s increased crackdown on corruption.

The Qincheng prison in Beijing has reportedly become packed with inmates, a source close to the jail told South China Morning Post.

Some of the country’s most leading politicians, known as “tigers,” have been housed at the jail, sometimes referred to the “tiger’s cage.” This number has soared since Xi’s anti-corruption probe began, which has seen over 1 million officials punished.

But while the Post describes the jail as “notorious,” the BBC has reported in the past that high-ranking officials enjoy a number of perks at the luxury prison, including TVs and being able to wear their own clothes.

Chinese New Year’s celebrations, which allow some prisoners over the age of 60 to have a small meal with their family, are apparently another perk. However the prison’s at-capacity status is causing problems this year.

According to the Post, Qincheng cancelled its celebrations this year due to not having enough room to accommodate the family visits.

In addition, the prison reportedly barred any visitors for the two weeks of Chinese New Year, which began on Friday.

Qincheng is the only jail in China run by the Ministry of Public Security, and was reportedly expanded in 2012, months before Xi began his corruption crackdown.

Xi’s corruption probe targets the country’s elite

Xi began his crackdown on corruption shortly after taking office in late 2012.

Well-known figures,including former commerce minister Bo Xilai and former military general Guo Boxiong, and reportedly sent them to Qincheng cells, the Post said.

In 2014, China arrested ex-security chief Zhou Yongkang, the first Politburo Standing Committee member and the most senior Chinese official to get investigated for corruption in decades, which sent waves through the Communist Party.

Zhou was later expelled from the party and convicted of bribery and abuse of power, and was sentenced to life in prison in 2015.

The probe extends beyond political influence.

In 2015, Guo Guangchang, known as “China’s Warren Buffett”, reportedly went “missing” in connection to graft investigations, but later claimed he had been on a business trip when rumours of his disappearance started, and his business was doing well.

Chang Xiaobing, CEO of state-owned telecoms giant China Telecom, also “went missing” in 2015. His company issued a statement shortly after saying Xiaobing had resigned. Xiaobing was sentenced to six years in prison for corruption in 2017.

Xi has justified his tough measures, saying that upper-tier corruption could trickle down and weaken the party’s grip on power.

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