Sex, Graft 'Go Hand in Hand'

Recent revelations of Chinese officials involved in sex scandals is leading to a nationwide corruption crackdown.
2013-01-29
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Bo Xilai attends the closing ceremony of the National People's Congress in Beijing, March 14, 2012.
AFP

Most high and middle-ranking officials from the ruling Chinese Communist Party investigated last year for corruption had mistresses, while a third were investigated for sex offenses, according to a recent report.

In the report, which examined the "image crisis" of government officials in 2012, the Crisis Management Institute of Beijing's People's University analyzed 24 major corruption cases which first emerged via the Internet last year, official media reported.

All but 5 percent of the officials investigated following online exposure had mistresses, while eight of the 24 were investigated for crimes involving women, such as rape or intercourse with minors, the report found.

The deluge of online corruption reports on China's wildly popular Twitter-like services led to the coining of the term "trial by Weibo."

First in the dock after a series of compromising photographs hit the microblogs was former Jingle county Party Secretary Yang Cunhu at the beginning of the year, while the most high-ranking and oldest official to be probed was former Chongqing municipal Party secretary and Politburo member Bo Xilai.

According to an October statement by the head of the Party's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, He Guoqiang, the Party has carried out 660,000 investigations into its own officials, 24,000 of which resulted in criminal proceedings.

According to Liao Ran, an Asia program officer for the Berlin-based anti-corruption group Transparency International, power and sexism tend to go together in Chinese political culture.

"There is this ideology that sees men as more important and women as less so," Liao said. "A lot of people believe that you must have sons, for example."

"And a lot of corrupt officials have these mistresses so as to get a son."

He said many of the mistresses were starting to blow the whistle on their lovers, sparking much hilarity online.

"There is a joke going around now that says, 'What do we need the commission for discipline inspection for, when we have the Mistress Commando Unit?'"

Threat of unrest

Liao said ordinary Chinese people had had all they could stomach of official bad behavior, which could prompt further social unrest if the government didn't take action.

"People won't put up with this any longer," he said. "For example, they will soon be publishing details of property transactions, so that it's very clear in whose name a property is being bought or sold."

"This has made a lot of officials very scared ... and they are selling off property," he added.

Official media reported on Tuesday that Shenzhen official Zhou Weisi had made as much as 2 billion yuan (U.S. $321.1 million) from property deals, and had been a driving force between forced demolitions and evictions in the Longgang neighborhood committee he administered.

According to the city's Chang Bao newspaper, Zhou's case had implicated a number of others, and uncovered a "chain" of linked, illegal interests.

Shenzhen-based commentator Zhu Jianguo said he suspected the official media reporting of Zhou's case was aimed at diverting public opinion away from a much larger scandal that hadn't been uncovered, however.

"It has only taken them two to three months from discovering the scandal to arresting him, and trumpeting it the length and breadth of the country," Zhu said.

"If a village-level official can make 2 billion, then we can only imagine how much money his superiors are making."

"If the lower ranks are crooked, then their bosses are hardly likely to be well-behaved."

'Tip of the iceberg'


Beijing University of Science and Technology professor Hu Xingdou said the corruption now being exposed in Shenzhen can safely be assumed to be happening across the county.

"In some places, local village officials and local governments have become mafia-like, and corruption is endemic," Hu said.

"It's a pretty serious situation, and this case in Shenzhen is only the tip of the iceberg," he said.

Incoming president Xi Jinping, who takes over formally from president Hu Jintao in March, has warned that the Party must beat graft or lose power, sparking a nationwide clampdown on corruption.

However, political analysts say that officials with friends in high places are unlikely to be touched by the crackdown, and reports suggest many are liquidizing their assets and making moves overseas.

China scored poorly in an annual global corruption index published last year by Transparency International, which measures perceptions of corruption around the world.

Mainland China ranked 80th out of 176 countries, down five places from the previous year.

Reported by Xi Wang and Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.