Zeng Chengjie

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Zeng Chengjie

Zeng Chengjie (曾成杰) was an entrepreneur in Hunan Province who was executed for illegal fundraising on July 12, 2013.

Born to a destitute family in suburban Hunan in 1956, Zeng led over 50 of his fellow townsmen to western Hunan for real estate development when he was 30 years old.

In June 2003, he bid for three landmark buildings, a gymnasium, a library and an art gallery in Jishou City, Hunan Province.

On January 8, 2004, Zeng and his partner Fan Jixiang established Western Hunan Jishou Sanguan Real Estate Associated Development Co. Ltd, with Zeng as the chief executive officer (CEO) of the company. In 2006, the company changed its name to Hunan Sanguan Real Estate Development Co. Ltd. Hunan Sanguan was the largest property company in the city, which won the bid of the landmark buildings.

Zeng was arrested in December 2008, for illegal fundraising involving nearly 90 percent of the families in Jishou, the capital city of Xiangxi Tujia and Miao Autonomous Prefecture. He raised 16.8 billion yuan, which equals 75 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) of the Prefecture in the same year, according to some media reports.

Zeng was sentenced to death by the Changsha Intermediate People’s Court on May 20, 2011. He appealed to the Hunan High People’s Court and then to the Supreme Court when his initial appeal failed. On June 14, 2013, the Supreme People’s Court upheld the death sentence.

The verdict was considered suspicious by many, including Zeng’s defense attorney, Wang Shaohua, who said that the court’s assessment of Zeng’s assets was inaccurate.

Page 21 of the Hunan High People’s Court verdict showed Zeng had 1.77 billion yuan in debt before his arrest. However, page 91 of the same verdict states that “Zeng paid back 623 million yuan plus those 4 million yuan referred [to] above, accounting for 50.1 percent of [his total debt].” Zeng therefore owed 1.25 billion yuan, rather than 1.77 billion. According to Wang, “the 518 million yuan error” was probably one of several indications of the assessment’s dishonesty.

His daughter Zeng Zheng, the cashier and auditor of the company’s financial department was sentenced seven years in prison, and his wife Deng Youyun was sentenced five years and six months for her illegal collection of individual deposits.

Zeng Shan, Zeng’s younger daughter, used her Weibo (China’s equivalent to Twitter) to protest on her father’s behalf. There she posted about her legal efforts and hunger strike on her father’s behalf. Her protests proved to be in vain when Zeng Chenjie was executed before she or her brother, Zeng Xian, were allowed to meet with him. According to the Hunan High People’s Court, Zeng didn’t ask to meet with his relatives before his execution, an explanation many called cold-hearted in online comments.

Zeng Xian also expressed skepticism about the veracity of his father’s will, which he was given by the court. According to Zeng Xian, the handwriting is not his father’s style.

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