China’s largest village corruption case explodes in Zhejiang

China’s largest village corruption case explodes in Zhejiang

Staff Reporter 

2013-08-29

Ten officials in Xinqiao, a small village in easterns China’s Zhejiang province, have whipped up what has been deemed the nation’s biggest collective corruption case on record for village-level governance in the history of the People’s Republic of China. The alleged crimes involve the illicit seizure of 316 resettlement houses, worth 1.8 billion yuan (US$294 million), reports the Beijing-based Economic Observer.On July 31, Wenzhou’s Yongjia County People’s Court conducted the second trial for the case, after prosecutors took aim at the head of the village’s management committee, Yu Qianshou. They charged him together with three others with accepting bribes and embezzlement. This follows the first trial on July 11, in which five other people were sentenced to five to six years in prison. The village secretary was the only one to walk free.

The court has yet to announce a verdict in the second trial.

Though this case may have outdone the others, village-level agencies have by no means escaped China’s corruption network. Since 2012, Zhejiang prosecutors have launched probes into 979 people in 770 cases, including 526 bribery cases involving 668 persons and 244 malfeasance cases involving 311 people. These people included village officials and businesspersons.

Corruption has been getting serious in villages, especially land corruption and corporate restructuring in economically developed coastal areas, and the illegal obtainment of state funding in the less developed inland regions, said Wang Yukai, a professor at the National School of Administration.

In the Xinqiao case, Yu accepted bribes of more than 30 million yuan (US$4.9 million), and embezzled 1.4 million yuan (US$229,000).

How was Yu able to accept bribes for several years without anyone knowing and stopping him from doing so?

Prosecutors said these scandals repeatedly occurred because of a lack of thorough systems to supervise the operations of village committees, according to the report. In other words, the village head is like the unsupervised lord of a small kingdom and villagers are kept in the dark about any violations of their rights.

Most importantly, there is no channel for residents to notify the authorities. Even if they knew their money had been embezzled by village officials, they had no means of speaking out, prosecutors said.

In Wenzhou, a relatively prosperous city with its villages integrated into larger urban districts, the interests of officials often becomes entangled. According to a report unveiled by the Yongjia county government, some resettlement houses originally planned to be given to Xinqiao residents were bought by the local public security bureau and water conservancy bureau officials at the cost price of 400,000 yuan (US$65,000) per unit. The market value of the houses later exceeded 4 million yuan (US$650,000) per unit at the market’s peak.

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