Reports emerging almost a month after two aerospace experts were violently attacked by an aerospace company executive on June 6 and hospitalized have created a sensation on China's social media — raising questions about corruption and cover-up within the prestigious industry. The case received fresh prominence after a report by Du Wei was released yesterday from China Newsweekly through its official WeChat public account, adding key facts to online reports circulating the day before. According to the report, Zhang Tao (张陶), the Chairman and Chinese Communist Party Secretary of China Aerospace Investment Holdings (航天投资控股有限公司), was infuriated after two scientists, Wang Jinnian (王晋年) and Wu Meirong (吴美蓉), both IAA academicians, refused after a dinner invitation from Zhang Tao to recommend him for membership in the Stockholm-based non-governmental organization, International Academy of Astronautics (IAA), which was founded in 1960. China Newsweekly said that 86-year old Wang Jinnian and 55-year Wu Meirong both remained hospitalized as of July 2. Wang Jinnian had broken ribs and multiple bruises across his body, and Wu Meirong was awaiting surgery for a fractured spine. According to IAA, the group’s membership consists of “individuals who have distinguished themselves in one of the fields of astronautics or one of the branches of the science of fundamental importance for the exploration of space.” Wang Jinnian, 85, was appointed to the IAA’s Board of Trustees in 2019. Zhang Tao, who hoped to join the group, had sought out Wang and Wu to make his proposal over dinner. China Newsweekly reported that Wang Jinnian had agreed to meet Zhang Tao at the latter’s request. When Zhang Tao raised the issue of IAA membership, Wang was cautious, saying that because this was the first time they had met the executive and they were unfamiliar with his work, it was best to hold off until they knew more. China Newsweekly reported: At this point, Zhang Tao, disagreeing with Wang Jinnian, suddenly became furious and got up to strike him. Sitting on the other side, Wu Meirong was terrified by the situation and asked that they leave the table. Around 10:30 PM that night, Zhang Tao and his company subordinates accompanied the two academicians back to Wang Jinnian’s Beijing residence. Before Wang Jinnian entered the elevator, Zhang Tao kicked Wang to the ground from behind and started beating him. He later pushed Wu Meirong to the ground and dragged Wang Jinnian out of the elevator to continue beating him. China Newsweekly confirmed from the staff at China Aerospace Investment Holdings that Zhang Tao remained at work, having apparently suffered no consequences as a result of his brutal attack on the two men. The release online of a Notice from China Aerospace Science and Technology (航天科技集团), the parent enterprise of China Aerospace Investment Holdings, however, renewed interest in the case. Apparently issued by the “Party Group Work Department” (党群工作部) at China Aerospace Science and Technology on July 2, the “Notice” cautions Party cadres to stay quiet about the Zhang Tao affair. The notice states: “The group has given this matter a high priority, and it is in the process of fully understanding the situation. Afterwards, according to the true circumstances and abiding by rules and regulations, it will handle [the case].” “We hope that Party cadres will not spread or disseminate this matter, and will strictly abide by political discipline and political rules.”

(Comment: Zhang Tao, the Party Secretary and chair of China Aerospace Investment Holdings, who badly beat up two elderly  Chinese members of the Intl Academy of Aeronautics when they turned down his request to recommend him as a fellow of that academy, is a well-connected individual and 'princeling'. His paternal grandfather was Zhang Zongxun (张宗逊), one of the 'founding Generals' of the PLA. His maternal grandfather was none other than Tao Zhu, one of the early members of the CCP who rose to become a member of the PBSC till he was purged by Mao during the Cultural Revolution and died in November 1969 before he could be rehabilitated. Zhang Tao's father is a leader in Chinese aeronautics.  More significantly, his father's younger brother, Zhang Tao's uncle, is Zhang Youxia (张又侠), Vice Chairman of the CMC.)

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