'House Sister' and her shady parents brought down by MSM microblog crusade

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 02 January, 2013, 1:08pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 02 January, 2013, 2:28pm

Another corruption scandal broke on December 26 when the Zhengzhou bureau of Hong Kong's Sing Pao newspaper used its Sina Weibo account to accuse Zhai Zhenfeng (翟振锋), a former top housing administration official in the city, and his immediate family of possessing a few too many flats.

The report cited only a few details followed by addresses and a revised accusation the following day, namely that the newspaper had learned Zhai's "post-90s" daughter - so far unnamed but now known widely as "House Sister" - is the listed owner of 11 flats (the largest reportedly 2,777 sq ft), but the move paid off when Zhai's former office took to its Sina Weibo account on December 28 and confirmed Sing Pao's accusation.

The Zhengzhou housing administration added that an investigation has been launched, but in the meantime it hopes to protect the privacy of those involved, and nothing has been posted to its microblog account in the days since.

People's Daily started following the story that same day (also keeping all this confined to Sina Weibo), going on to reveal that the 11 properties in question were purchased in late 2010, long before her father resigned from his administrative position.

Then late on Sunday, People's Daily noted on its microblog account that the Zhengzhou propaganda department had just announced authorities in the city have begun a formal investigation into the situation.

It was also on Sunday that initial media coverage of this story finally appeared. In its report, republished on Tuesday by People's Daily, Beijing News carried quotes from unnamed whistleblowers and employees at a Zhengzhou property developer allegedly used by Zhai to get his hands on the flats held by his daughter.

Xinhua reported the same morning that Zhai's wife, named elsewhere as Li Shuping (李淑萍), runs her own property development firm.

Among the juicy details laid out in the Beijing News report is the discovery that not only did two "hukou" identities, each with its own name, belong to Zhai's daughter, but that both of her parents also maintained separate secondary identities registered in Shanghai.

The report ends with quotes from a former associate of Zhai who alleged the family has to date illegally flipped a total of 308 flats, acquiring more than 60 million yuan (HK$74.57 million).

Reporters at Southern Metropolis Daily wrote in a report on Tuesday that Zhai's departure from his Zhengzhou housing administration post in 2011 was punishment for having been caught profiteering and included being kicked out of the Communist Party at the time.

While details of any further punitive measures handed down at the time have yet to be uncovered and the Zhai family investigation continues, Sina Weibo users approach one million posts about the unfolding scandal.