Jishou’s ‘Bernie Madoff’ executed for financial crimes

JISHOU, HUNAN — During my first year here, citizens here were caught up in a big real estate scandal that cost many of them their entire life savings. Some of those people are my friends and students. The man ostensibly at the head of this scandal was Zeng Chengjie, a local real estate developer. I say was, because Zeng was executed last July. As a former reporter, I am ashamed to say I didn’t learn about it until just last week, from a French traveler of all people. But, as they say, better late than never. Jishou is normally a very calm and peaceful place. (Another way to put it is, “boring.”) The only times it gets loud and crazy here are when it’s a big holiday, like Spring Festival, or when an NBA exhibition game is at the city sports arena. But, in September 2008, there were mobs of angry people downtown, many outside the gates of the city government complex, demanding compensation for losing money in an investment scheme. For a time, there were police in riot gear and soldiers patrolling the streets. My foreign affairs officer called me on at least two different occasions to advise me ...
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