Power corrupts. In some places, almost everyone

By Zong He (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-10-24 08:20

Officials sacked for corruption in recent months

It was a strange auction. The bidder who offered 130 million yuan (US$16.25 million) for the operation licence of a metal mine lost to someone who offered 60 million yuan (US$7.5 million) less than he did.

The auction took place last year, and the man behind it was Li Dalun, the Party secretary of Chenzhou, a city in Central China's Hunan Province, where natural resources and the property market are major contributors to the city's booming economy.

Li Dalun (left) is seen at a local orchid exhibition. [China Daily]

Before long, national media reports revealed that Li was sitting at the apex of a mass corruption case that put the entire city government in hot water.

On June 1, the Hunan provincial committee for discipline inspection placed Li under "double designation," a status in which officials must explain their actions or confess their wrongdoing at a designated time and place.

Li's case is pending in Changsha, Hunan's capital.

The credibility of the city's officials sank to its lowest after the investigation revealed that more than 150 officials and business people were involved in the corruption case.

Apart from Li, other top officials involved with the case included the Chenzhou Committee for Discipline Inspection Secretary Zeng Jinchun, Deputy Mayor Lei Yuanli, publicity department head Fan Jiasheng and former housing pension administration centre deputy chief Li Shubiao.

During the probe, when an official was asked to confess to his wrongdoing, he said: "I am not the most corrupt. I am ranked only No 12."

His words vividly illustrate the depth of the corruption, in which Li Dalun is alleged to have played a leading role.

The provincial disciplinary committee and the provincial procuratorate found out that Li and his wife, Chen Lihua, possess 32 million yuan (US$4 million), of which 31.55 million yuan (US$3.94 million) has been frozen as "huge assets of unknown origin."

The couple are alleged to have received bribes of about 13.25 million yuan (US$1.66 million) in recent years and additional cash sent from government officials on holidays, birthdays and other family occasions.

A difference in perspective

However, before the case was publicized, Li saw himself as a passionate poet and an official keen on economic development.

Seven years ago at the age of 49, Li rose from the position of rural office director in the provincial government to become the Chenzhou city Party committee secretary.

As a member of the Hunan Province Writers' Association, Li has published a poetry collection entitled "The Years Are Like Poems" and "A Collection of Dalun's Calligraphy." The two books were distributed to local citizens and purchased by government officials.

Chenzhou's revenue has been growing by more than 20 per cent annually in recent years.

"Li Dalun was enthusiastic about rankings and knew that accomplishing statistical goals would gain heavy rewards," according to a senior official quoted by Southern Weekend, a Guangzhou-based newspaper.

In meetings, Li repeatedly stated the goal of making Chenzhou's GDP the second largest in Hunan Province.

His subordinates began to try to follow his instructions, to give Chenzhou a unique look: All the plazas are sumptuous and huge, and many buildings were built to imitate those of the classical period in Western history.

Of the "Ten Projects" ostensibly designed to bring glory to Chenzhou, the most elaborate was the People's Congress Hall.

The building was made to resemble the building of the same name in Beijing, and was filled with conference rooms named after various local towns.

Li gathered his fortune mostly from the owners of the city's mine industry and property market, Southern Weekend reported. He often emphasized the importance of foreign investment and the development of the private sector.

There was a saying in Chenzhou that the market was controlled by those with authority.