Chinese protesters take corruption battle into their own hands

(CBS News) ZHENGZHOU, China -- At the crowded bus station in Zhengzhou, China, 15 protesters are determined to confront the station's manager, a man named Fan Jianhui, who also happens to be the local Communist Party boss.

They told us they have evidence he's skimmed $7 million in profit from a state-owned bus operation.

Fan Jianquiand
Fan Jianquiand
CBS News

The leader of the protest is Fan Jianquiand.

"He's illegally taken over the station," he said. "And it's the main profit center for the village. He's taken all of the money and won't give up a penny."

Just minutes after our interview, the manager's hired thug -- his enforcer -- showed up, ready to fight.

This has happened before, and the enforcer usually wins, but not this time. The protesters fight back in a fury, kicking the enforcer after he goes down.

"Go ahead," the enforcer taunts. "Beat me some more."

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He's about to get his wish.

The fight in Zhengzhou shows how corruption is damaging the Communist Party throughout China. The same party that produced China's economic miracle is also producing officials -- at every level -- who take office and enrich themselves.

Watch: Wyatt Andrews goes inside China's National People's Congress, below.

Almost every week there are new protests against party corruption. Last month, 2,000 demonstrators -- on their knees -- claimed that local officials in Heibi Province, west of Beijing, had sold off public land and kept the money.

The protesters in Zhengzhou say they want the bus profits returned, and that the money should have been spent on housing and the elderly. Instead, they said, most of the funds went to the party boss, with some of it used to bribe local prosecutors.

Asked why the party boss, Fan Jianhui, is not being investigated, the protest leader says, "It's hard to say. But we've heard that officials from higher up have ordered the case to be held back."

Fan Jianhui has told the protesters he has a private contract to operate the station, but they showed us documents they claim proves the contract is fake. We made several attempts to contact Fan, but he never responded.

Out in the parking lot, the protesters rose up again and the enforcer was beaten and defeated, exactly what party leaders in Beijing are afraid might one day happen to them.


  • Wyatt Andrews

    Wyatt Andrews is a CBS News National Correspondent based in Washington D.C. He is responsible for tracking trends in politics, health care, energy, the environment and foreign affairs.

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