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A former bank executive who allegedly used three fake identity cards to buy numerous houses may face criminal penalties, including imprisonment for forgery of official documents, experts said.
Gong Aiai, 49, a former deputy chief of Shenmu Rural Commercial Bank in Yulin, Shaanxi province, was accused in online posts and media reports of possessing four hukou, or household registrations, and owning four identity cards.
If police find the allegations to be true, Gong may face criminal charges up to 10 years in prison for forging official documents, said Wang Faxu, a lawyer in Beijing.
It is unlikely that Gong was able to register so many fake ID cards alone. She must have received assistance from officers who have access to the hukou registration system, Wang said.
"Police are not easily fooled by the type of fraudulent information she provided. Gong couldn't have done all of this alone," he said.
Wang said it is ridiculous that people in Gong's position can have three secret ID cards. Authorities have the technical infrastructure to uncover similar cases. But they are held back because they know many officials will be exposed if such a screening takes place, Wang said.
Wang listed a number of reasons people hold two or more ID cards in China. He said they may be officials trying to hide their fortune built by taking bribes, a man with power and means wanting to keep mistresses and second families or rich people eyeing the opportunities in housing, education and social welfare in cities such as Beijing and Shanghai, which are usually only accessible to local hukou holders.
Every Chinese resident above the age of 16 is issued one identity card that is based on their hukou. A series of numbers on the identity card indicate the holder's personal information such as birthday and place of birth. Such information never changes, even if the holder moves from one city to another.
Police in Beijing, Shanxi province and Gong's native city, Yulin, are all investigating the case, as one of Gong's fake hukou is said to register her near Olympic Park in Beijing, the other two fake hukou are said to be in two different counties in Shanxi, and in Shenmu, Shaanxi province, where she lives.
News media have reported that the numbers on Gong's fake ID card in Beijing indicated she was born in the capital. Typically, people can have their hukou moved to Beijing, but the personal information on their ID cards remain the same, so their original place of birth can be traced.
The chief of the police station, He Yongfeng, and Li Youbing, the officer who handled Gong's application in Linxian county, Shanxi province, have been suspended, pending further investigation. Gong was able to register there in 2006, a hukou with her real photo, but under a different name, Gong Xianxia, and different birth information.
Gong later moved this hukou to Shenmu county in Shaanxi. Police in Shenmu canceled the fake ID card and related documents on Saturday.
Gong had a second fake hukou registered using her real photo and her real name in Xingxian county, Shanxi. She moved this hukou in 2008 to Shenmu county, Shaanxi where, four years later, police discovered the irregularity and canceled the hukou.
Cao Yushan, the chief of the police station in Shenmu that canceled Gong's second fake hukou, told China Central Television on Tuesday that Gong had all the required documents ready to move her hukou in 2008 and officers had done the routine check.
Earlier reports said that Gong owns more than 20 properties in Beijing, worth 1 billion yuan ($160 million).
There are concerns about how a former bank executive such as Gong can afford these purchases. The public deserves to know whether abuses of power were involved when Gong served at the bank, said Lan He, another lawyer in Beijing.
Gong's case may make officials more willing to declare their assets, rather than wait to be the next subject of scandalous revelation online, Lan said.
Online anti-corruption efforts have helped expose many corrupt officials. But it will be a pity if this string of clean-government initiatives becomes the mainstream. Instead, authorities should take the lead and create an environment that allows vigilant scrutiny of corruption, Lan said.
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