Shaanxi county seizes officials’ passports after deputy head fired for Europe jaunt

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 28 November, 2013, 1:18pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 28 November, 2013, 1:19pm

Ningshan county in central China, known for its pristine forests sheltering golden snub-nosed monkeys, has imposed travel restrictions on its leading officials after its deputy head was fired for dipping into government funds to go on a two-week-long bender in Europe.

The county of about 75,000 people in Shaanxi province has asked its leading cadres to hand in their passports to its administration department in a new regulation issued on Wednesday.

The regulation comes three weeks after the county’s deputy head, Ye Qingchun, was dismissed from his post after being caught using government funds for a personal trip journeying throughout Europe.

Calls on Thursday to Ningshan County’s propaganda department went unanswered.

Ye travelled with eight others including his wife to Eindhoven in the Netherlands on the pretence of accompanying two high school students to RoboCup Junior, a contest pitting robots against humans in playing football. The group then also visited Germany, France and Switzerland, Xinhua said. The report did not mention how much in government funds Ye used for the trip.

Ke Zunnian, a longtime whistleblower on government corruption, told media outlets about the private trip on government funds, which triggered an investigation and led to Ye’s dismissal. Ke, who works as a doctor at the county hospital, has attracted widespread attention thanks to his habit of not leaving his home without a helmet and wooden baton to fend off reprisal attacks.

Cadres are allowed to leave the country only once per year on personal trips, the county regulation read, according to the Ankang Express, a local news web portal. They have up to ten days to hand back their passports upon return.

As well as private trips overseas like Ye’s, a startling number of Chinese officials have resorted to even fleeing overseas in an effort to avoid graft investigations. A report by the People’s Bank of China in 2008 estimated that 16,000 to 18,000 officials have fled abroad since the mid-nineties, taking with them about 800 billion yuan (HK$1.01 trillion).

Some, however, have used forged documents to leave the country. On Wednesday, news emerged that that the head of the admissions office of Renmin University, one of the country’s most prestigious educational institutions, tried to leave the country via Shenzhen on a forged passport.