A miserable year for corrupt officials in China

12:58, December 31, 2009      

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At least 15 governor and ministerial-level officials, a record high in 30 years, have been brought down this year, many for allegedly trading their power for money in the country's economic boom, driven by mammoth investment in infrastructure construction and the real estate industry.

"We must be sober enough to see that the anti-corruption work still faces new problems, and the situation is still serious," an anti-corruption meeting of the Political Bureau, chaired by President Hu Jintao, announced Tuesday, according to the Xinhua News Agency.

A stepped-up anti-corruption campaign since the fourth plenary session of the 17th national Communist Party of China Committee in October has spread to the land sector.

Wang Wei, a member of the communist party's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI), said last Thursday that supervision bodies nationwide gave special attention this year to real estate development, land management, engineering construction and the financial sector.

The latest case involves Cai Zhiqiang, former head of the Putuo District of Shanghai, who was officially arrested last Thursday on charges of taking "huge amounts" in bribes, although the exact figure was not disclosed.

While he served as the district head, he was also in charge of land use, bidding, auctions and listings, according to the Shanghai-based Xinmin Evening News.

Putuo district is a new hotspot for land development, with "China's most expensive land" in September, when a square meter sold for 22,400 yuan ($3,290).

Kang Huijun, 52, a former senior official of Shanghai's Pudong New Area, was given a life sentence in February for accepting bribes of 5.9 million yuan and for his role in illicit property deals.

In the same month, Jiang Yong, the former director of Chongqing Planning Bureau, was sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve for accepting bribes of 18.7 million yuan over five years from developers, along with his mistress, after he promised to aid them in their application for projects.

A two-year investigation found 10 other officials above the provincial-department-level involved in the same case.

"It often went like this, when a series of construction projects were wrapped up, a number of officials would fall," Lin Zhe, an expert on anti-corruption at the CPC Party School, told the Global Times.

Land has become an increasingly rare resource held by the government. As long as real estate prices kept soaring, some officials failed to resist the lure of huge profits shared with the developers, she said.

Corruption has not just been seen within the real estate industry. Some officials were also found to be colluding with businessmen in other areas.

Sun Shuyi, chairman of the Shandong Provincial Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), was sacked December 17 for his alleged connection with the illegal fundraising of four billion yuan.

Chen Shaoji, former chairman of the Guangdong provincial committee of the CPPCC, and Wang Yuanhua, former secretary of the Guangdong provincial discipline committee, were detained and interrogated for their role as 'umbrellas' for Huang Guangyu, formerly the country's richest man and chairman of Gome Electrical Appliances.

Chen Tonghai, the former chairman of Chinese oil giant Sinopec Corp, is an example. He was sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve in July for taking bribes of 196 million yuan between 1999 and June 2007. He was found to have helped others "seek interests" in land transfers.

The total number of provincial and ministerial-level officials detained this year is a record high since China abandoned its planned economy and embraced a market-oriented economy 31 years ago, according to Lin.

Statistics in 2008 showed that as many as 41,179 officials were found to be involved in embezzlement and bribery. Among them, 17,594 major cases of embezzlement and bribery were found, an increase of 4.6 percent. 29,836 people were sentenced for abuse of power, a 12.6 percent increase compared with 2007.

Besides disciplinary or legal actions, the government has been trying other means, such as urging leading officials at various levels to report their property and investment activity and the jobs of their spouses and children, a step that many consider a prelude to a much-anticipated official property-declaration system.

Source: Global Times
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