Shanghai Probes Judges in Karaoke Sex Scandal

By Luisetta Mudie
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china-chen-xueming-prostitution-june-2013-305.jpg Chen Xueming rides an elevator with colleagues at the Hengshan Resort in Pudong, June 9, 2013.
Photo courtesy of Youku.

Authorities in Shanghai have suspended four top judges after a whistle-blower posted evidence online that they had been using the services of prostitutes, official media reported on Monday.

Chen Xueming, a chief civil tribunal judge at the Shanghai High People's Court, his deputy Zhao Minghua, and two other court employees were suspended, the ruling Chinese Communist Party's Commission for Discipline Inspection said on its official microblog account at the weekend.

Two Chinese newspapers identified the whistle-blower only by his surname Ni after he posted video of court officials arm-in-arm with karaoke hostesses at a resort hotel on June 9, the English-language China Daily newspaper said.

"At the resort, the group ate dinner and sang karaoke in one of the most expensive private rooms," the paper said.

"After the group retired to their rooms, the video shows young women entered their hotel rooms and came out after a few hours."

According to Ni, five of the officials later paid for the services of prostitutes at the luxury Hengshan Resort in the business district of Pudong, although only four are under probe, it said.

"The disciplinary commission is investigating the incident, and we have no information on how it is going," Shanghai High Court spokesman Zhang Guanqun told reporters on Sunday.

He declined to clarify the number of officials under investigation.

String of exposes

The allegations are the latest in a string of online exposes of officials engaged in sexual misconduct and corruption, with online whistle-blowing such a common phenomenon that it has been dubbed "trial by Weibo," in a reference to China's wildly popular microblogging services.

Sex and corruption frequently go hand-in-hand, with a number of high-profile graft cases also involving mistresses or sex workers, analysts say.

Most high and middle-ranking officials from the Communist Party investigated last year for corruption had mistresses, while a third were investigated for sex offenses, according to an official report issued earlier this year.

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

All but 5 percent of the officials investigated following online exposure had mistresses, while eight of the 24 were investigated for sex crimes, including rape and intercourse with minors, the report found.

In June, a court in the southwestern city of Chongqing handed a 13-year jail term to former Communist Party official Lei Zhengfu, who became embroiled in a highly publicized sex tape scandal, for bribery.

Lei Zhengfu was removed from his post as party secretary of the city's Beibei district after video of him having sex with an 18-year-old woman made the rounds on China's scandal-obsessed Internet.

'Forced to this step'

Ni told Chinese media he began following Zhao and collecting evidence on him after suspecting the judge had intervened in a civil case which cost Ni his only property.

"I was forced to this step because the ruling of that civil case forced me to sell my only apartment," Ni was quoted as saying by Beijing Times on Sunday.

He then discovered that Zhao was a relative of the plaintiff to whom he was forced to pay compensation, and of his attorney, official media reported.

President Xi Jinping has warned that the ruling Communist Party must beat graft or lose power, sparking a nationwide clampdown on corruption.

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

China scored poorly in an annual global corruption index published last year by Transparency International, ranking 80th out of 176 countries, down five places from the previous year.


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