More than 500 lawmakers in a Chinese city have resigned after being implicated in a bribery scandal, while another 56 provincial legislators have been sacked, state media said yesterday, as the Chinese government steps up its war on graft.
The Xinhua news agency said the 512 lawmakers in Hengyang in the poor, landlocked southern province of Hunan resigned after they took bribes from 56 members of the provincial assembly.
The total amount of the bribes was more than 110 million yuan (US$18.1 million) and the money was used to swing the results of elections, Xinhua said, citing a Hunan Provincial Government statement.
China does not have fully democratic one-man, one-vote elections, but has experimented with a selection process at the grassroots for local legislatures, even if most candidates are Chinese Communist Party (CCP) members and there is rarely more than a single candidate for each position available.
“The number of people involved in the Hengyang election case are many, the amount of money large, the substance serious, the effect pernicious; this is a serious challenge to our People’s Congresses system,” Xinhua said.
“It must be seriously dealt with in accordance with the law,” the news agency added.
The National People’s Congress is China’s parliament.
Provinces, cities, counties and other administrative districts each have their own People’s Congresses, and they all generally act as a rubber stamp for CCP decisions rather than providing a forum for debate or making policies.
Although limited, the competition to become lawmakers in some places has opened the door to corruption, as membership of such bodies brings opportunities to influence decisions about things such as business contracts and promotions.
Xinhua said that those found to have broken the law in this bribery scandal would be handed over to judicial authorities for prosecution.
Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) has launched a sweeping crackdown on corruption since taking power, pursuing high-flying “tigers” as well as lowly “flies,” and issuing warnings that the problem is so severe it could threaten the party’s survival.
Still, the party has shown no sign of wanting to set up an independent body outside party control to fight corruption, which many experts say is the only way China can really deal with it.
The party has gone after activists who have pressed for officials to publicly reveal their wealth. One of the most prominent of these, Xu Zhiyong (許志永), is expect to go on trial soon.
Xu, who has pushed for greater civil rights, is one of several activists in the disclosure campaign who have been detained.
He was taken in by Beijing police in July on charges of “suspicion of gathering a mob to disturb order in a public place,” a copy of Xu’s detention notice says.