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Collector and dealer Zhang Rui arrested

No access to lawyers, claims source

Shanghai. Leading Chinese collector, dealer and gallerist Zhang Rui and his wife, Rui Ning Yang, have been arrested, caught in the dragnet following the detention of China Mobile vice-president and deputy chairman Zhang Chunjiang.

Zhang Rui has been held in custody incommunicado for three months with no access to lawyers, according to a source close to the investigation. The couple’s child is said to be with relatives. The source said: “In China some things really haven’t changed. These arrests came without warning, and they are being held without any communication. It is like the 1970s.”

There is a news blackout in effect in China regarding all aspects of the Zhang Chunjiang case, which has only been reported by leading investigative magazine Caijing. China Mobile is said to be the world’s largest telecom operator.

Zhang Rui is allegedly “assisting in the investigation”, because of his position as chairman of Beijing Rui communication technology consulting company. Zhang Rui previously ran a telecom service under Zhang Chunjiang’s supervision in north-east China in the 1990s. His wife ran an advertising agency that had a major contract with China Netcom, a company previously administered by Zhang Chunjiang. It is alleged that Zhang Rui was involved in money laundering and other corrupt activities within the telecom industry.

The source said that a probable outcome, and perhaps a release from custody, is expected this month. Similar cases have led to long prison terms or the death sentence for the officials involved, depending on the amounts involved, impact on society, and contrition of the accused, who are expected to confess their crimes in minutiae, with the details kept secret. Chinese officials in state-owned enterprises have long been warned that the central government would be conducting an “audit storm” to try and stamp out corrupt practices. It is common for initial allegations to be leaked to the media.

Zhang Rui is a partner in Beijing’s Art Now gallery. He has a vast art collection of around 800 works by Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Indian artists, much of it stored in his opulent 1,700 sq. m house on the outskirts of Beijing (The Art Newspaper, July 2008). He is also known as Zhang Hao Ming, after informally changing his name in 2008 when he paid a fortune-teller several thousand dollars for a “luckier” name, though the practice is only said to work if the name becomes widely used.

Chris Gill