Official suspended over whistle-blower's death

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 24 June, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 24 June, 2008, 12:00am

The Anhui city of Fuyang , best known for a lavish government building modelled after the White House, is again at the centre of unwanted attention following the suspension of a senior official over the death of a local whistle-blower.

Zhang Zhian, party secretary of Yingquan district, has been relieved of his duties pending a probe into the suicide of businessman Li Guofu, who had reported cases of corruption involving local officials to the central government, the China Youth Daily reported.

Two other officials - Yingquan district chief prosecutor Wang Cheng and anti-corruption chief Zheng Tao - were also suspended, the paper said.

Li, a property developer as well as Zhang's subordinate, accused the party secretary of several abuses of power, some involving the construction of a government office resembling the White House.

Completed in 2003, the White House sparked huge controversy, not least because the government had demolished an elementary school to set aside enough land for the project.

The building has become a tourist attraction, but it cost at least 30 million yuan (HK$34.08 million), nearly one-third of Yingquan district's annual income, in an area where most people are farmers.

Other accusations against Zhang include illegal expropriation of land and embezzlement of public funds. Li told the central government that Zhang had turned 500 hectares of fertile farmland into industrial and ecological belts, hotels, a golf course and a racecourse, the China Youth Daily said.

But after Li came back from Beijing last August, he was arrested by the Fuyang Anti-corruption Bureau imprisoned on various charges, including fabricating official documents and accepting bribes.

Li was found dead on the morning of March 13, just hours before he was due to see his lawyer. Prosecutors ruled that Li had committed suicide by hanging himself with a strip of cloth. However, his family rejected the finding, claiming there were bruises on his neck, chest and back.