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Gov't official's alleged bribery uncovered by netizens

(Xinhua)

08:33, October 23, 2012

GUANGZHOU, Oct. 22 (Xinhua) -- A government official in Guangzhou, capital of south China's Guangdong Province, has been removed from his post after investigators found that his lifestyle, including his ownership of 22 homes, far outpaced his salary, according to a Monday announcement from the city's commission for discipline inspection.

Cai Bin, a senior urban management official from the city's Panyu district, is restricted from traveling and has been asked to cooperate in further investigations, Mei Heqing, an official from the Guangzhou Municipal Commission for Discipline Inspection of the Communist Party of China (CPC), said at a press conference.

Cai is suspected of receiving large bribes during his previous tenure as deputy chief of the district's public security bureau, head of its urban management bureau and political commissar, according to Mei.

A preliminary investigation revealed that Cai and his family own 22 houses, one more than the number claimed by online muckrakers who were responsible for bringing the scandal to light.

Cai's case is just the latest in a string of scandals that have been uncovered by Chinese netizens. Internet users conducted a "human flesh search," a form of vigilante activism that involves ferreting out a target's personal information and publishing it online, to uncover information regarding Cai's property holdings.

Netizens said the total value of his homes may be as high as 40 million yuan (6.4 million U.S. dollars), an amount that would've been impossible for his family to come up through legitimate means.

In light of the fact that Cai's son had obtained Australian citizenship, netizens speculated that Cai might be a "naked official," or a government official whose family members acquire foreign citizenship so that they can flee if and when their corruption is uncovered.

Provincial authorities in Guangdong have created a regulation that forbids officials whose families have emigrated abroad from taking top government positions.

Online supervision has become an important tool for the Chinese public in rooting out government corruption in recent years.

Just last month, Yang Dacai, a former senior work safety official in northwest China's Shaanxi province, was sacked due to a corruption scandal that was exposed after photos were posted online showing Yang wearing at least 11 expensive wristwatches on multiple occasions.

In 2009, Zhou Jiugeng, a former real estate management official in east China's city of Nanjing, was sentenced to 11 years in jail for bribery following an investigation that was spurred by photos published online showing him smoking expensive cigarettes.

China had 538 million Internet users as of June, accounting for nearly 40 percent of the country's population.

Netizens' expansive supervisory power has prompted authorities to follow up their investigations with the help of clues from the public, said Zhang Jingen, an associate professor of political affairs at Sun Yet-Sen University.

Disciplinary authorities should make proactive efforts to investigate and verify online information, as well as inform the public promptly, Zhang said.

He also advised the government to further regulate property declarations by officials and establish long-term, systematic supervision.

Authorities in the city of Zhongshan and the Shunde district of the city of Foshan, both in Guangdong, plan to ask new officials to declare their property holdings upon taking up their posts.

"With more information given to the public, anti-corruption efforts made by netizens will be more effective," Zhang said.

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