Top Guangdong officials try to ease fears over anti-graft purge

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 28 July, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 28 July, 2009, 12:00am

The anti-corruption storm that has brought down several political heavyweights in Guangdong could be over for the time being after a top provincial leader branded the corruption scandals 'man-made disasters', experts said.

The campaign, which started six months ago, netted several powerful Guangdong figures, including its former top political adviser Chen Shaoji, former top graft-buster Wang Huayuan , former deputy police chief Zheng Shaodong and former Shenzhen mayor Xu Zongheng .

For weeks, rumours have suggested more heads would roll. The morale of Guangdong officials hit rock-bottom, with panicky officials calling reporters for information about who was going to be next.

Last week Guangdong party secretary Wang Yang and Governor Huang Huahua finally spoke publicly about the cases and tried to calm officials.

Mr Wang said the mistakes of a small group of people should not affect others. He stressed that most Guangdong cadres were 'competent'.

Mr Huang said: 'Guangdong's economy this year was hit hard by a natural calamity as well as a man-made disaster,' adding that the 'natural' calamity he referred to was the global financial crisis.

'Some cities will take a long time to recover. But we must stick to facts and must not cause panic' by spreading rumours, he said.

Peter Cheung Tsan-yin, associate professor of politics and public administration at the University of Hong Kong, said the leadership was trying to stabilise morale.

'In the near future, I don't think there will be any major sackings. It could be a genuine move to calm the nerves of local cadres, but it could also mean they are buying time for further investigations,' Professor Cheung said.

Chair professor of political science at City University, Joseph Cheng Yu-shek, said the fall of so many senior figures in Guangdong showed that the leadership in Beijing was not happy with officials in the province.

'Only the central government can decide when the anti-corruption drive will end and the scope of it,' Professor Cheng said.

The comments from Mr Huang and Mr Wang were merely pep talks aimed at polishing the tarnished image of Guangdong's leadership, the professor said.