Fri, Oct 18, 2019 - Page 8 News List

Xi’s graft watchdogs are sleeping

By Chen Chih-ko 陳止戈

Slightly smaller than Taiwan, China’s Hainan Island has a population of about 8.6 million and last year generated about 483 billion yuan (US$67.5 billion) in GDP, accounting for less than 0.5 percent of China’s total GDP. It ranked 28th out of China’s 31 provinces and autonomous regions. It is a small island in more ways than one.

Nevertheless, this small island was last month the site of some shocking news, surrounding the sacking of a sub-provincial-level official named Zhang Qi (張琦).

A Standing Committee member of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) Hainan Provincial Committee and CCP secretary of the Haikou Municipal Committee, Zhang, 58, was not exactly a towering figure in China’s bureaucracy.

Yet, when this low-ranking official was placed under the CCP’s shuanggui (雙規) extralegal detention and interrogation system on charges of “serious violations of party disciplinary rules and laws,” 13.5 tonnes of gold — with an estimated value of nearly NT$20 billion (US$651.87 million) — was reportedly found at his residence, along with 286 billion yuan (US$40.41 billion) of unknown provenance on the books.

The news of Zhang’s “House of Gold” was eagerly reported by Chinese as well as international Chinese-language media outlets, but Chinese authorities have neither confirmed nor denied the news.

The story essentially shows a low-ranking Hainan official giving a slap in the face to Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平), who prides himself on his anti-corruption drive.

What is 286 billion yuan worth? It is more than half of Hainan Province’s GDP and 1.9 times higher than Haikou’s GDP of 151 billion yuan.

If the money was evenly distributed to Haikou’s population of 2.27 million, each resident would receive 126,000 yuan, or about NT$550,000.

In 2014, Zhang was CCP secretary of the Sanya Municipal Committee. In 2016, he was promoted to the Haikou post.

In terms of city population, Zhang’s position resembles being the mayor of Taoyuan, a city with a similar population of 2.23 million.

Within this brief five-year period, Zhang was able to loot as much money as half of the city’s GDP. What kind of regime allows an official to do that?

A city’s municipal committee party secretary has a lot of power at their disposal, but how are they able to amass such a fortune through “red envelopes” offered for help in various dealings, such as launching a business, land enclosures and development?

Is it likely that Zhang’s colleagues did not notice anything while all this corruption was going on?

If a poor city’s party secretary is powerful enough to amass so much money and became almost “as rich as a country,” it is unimaginable how much money a rich city’s party secretary — and a member of the CCP’s Central Secretariat — can embezzle.

It begs the question of whether members of the CCP’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection and China’s National Supervisory Commission — so famous for their all-pervasive presence — are fast asleep.

When Xi assumed the presidency in 2012, the very first thing that he did was to launch a sweeping anti-corruption campaign.

In seven years, more than 1 million primary-level cadres have been brought to justice, and more than 100 officials provincial and ministerial-level officials have been sacked, with several of the CCP’s Central Committee members arrested.

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