To escape the death penalty, he admitted that he took bribes and became “superstitious” himself. What he was really been punished for was his lack of effectiveness.
by Gao Zihao
On November 24, Peng Bo, former deputy director of the Office of the Leading Group for Prevention and Handling of Xie Jiao Issues of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), was sentenced to 14 years in prison for having “surrendered to superstition” and received bribes of more than 54.64 million RMB (more than Euro 7 million).
Peng Bo’s office was popularly known as Office 610, although it went through several changes of name and reorganizations. It is the dreaded office overseeing thousands of police officers whose job is cracking down on xie jiao, a word meaning “heterodox teachings” and inaccurately translated in official English translations of its documents provided by the Chinese governments as “evil cults.” Peng Bo was a ruthless bureaucrat, personally responsible for the persecution, detention, torture, and extra-judicial killing of thousands of Falun Gong practitioners, and devotees of The Church of Almighty God and other groups labeled as a xie jiao.
He had a stellar CCP career until in August 2021 he was first expelled from the Party and then arrested. Quite unusually, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection of the CCP published detailed explanations about its actions against Peng Bo. Like the proverbial psychiatrist who ends up becoming crazy, Peng Bo was accused of having embraced himself “heterodox” beliefs and engaged in “superstitious activities,” abandoning his socialist beliefs and in the end “taking bribes.”
At trial, Peng Bo was obviously aware that in September his former political patron and Justice Minister Fu Zhenghua had been sentenced to death for corruption, although with a two-year reprieve (meaning the sentence can be commuted to life imprisonment if two years of reeducation in jail would prove successful).
Peng Bo confessed to everything he was accused of, including superstition, attributing his “collapse of ideals” to the fact that he had started losing sight of the need to being constantly attuned to the directions of the Central Committee. He also undertook not to appeal the decision, whatever it might be. He thus managed to get a comparatively lenient sentence, 14 years in jail, notwithstanding the fact that the court assessed the amount of bribes he had received at the high figure of 54.64 million RMB.
To what “heterodox” beliefs Peng Bo came to subscribe was not explained. Many supposedly atheistic CCP bureaucrats would practice divination with the Book of Changes (I Ching) or consult a Feng Shui expert when building a home. These practices are less tolerated today than before. It is also well-known that anti-xie-jiao police at all levels take bribes from defendants who are sent home from jail without having their case recorded (which would allow them to obtain a passport and escape abroad) and appropriate properties confiscated from the xie jiao.
However, when Peng Bo suddenly fell from grace and was arrested in 2021, many netizens commented that perhaps he did engage in “superstitious” practices and took bribes, but probably he was mostly being punished for not having been very effective.
Office 610 announced more than once that Falun Gong had been eradicated, only to admit that by proposing the “Nine True Words” meditation as a way to boost the immune system during the COVID pandemic, the movement had resurfaced and gained thousands of followers. Despite operations involving thousands of police for a “final solution” of The Church of Almighty God “problem,” media continue to report that hundreds of members are identified and arrested almost weekly. And a third “national security risk” has been added to Falun Gong and The Church of Almighty God in the shape of the Association of Disciples, another group Peng Bo had announced he had eradicated.
Peng Bo’s successors are expected to be more effective. Otherwise, one day they may also be compelled to publicly confess, to escape the death penalty, that they surrendered to superstition and dishonesty, and face long jail terms.