Several senior cadres in Dongguan, including a public security official, are under investigation following claims that they profited by building a large commercial development on cheap land bought from farmers for an industrial project.
The probe by municipal disciplinary authorities follows a report by China Central Television last week implicating several high-ranking officials from Dongkeng township in what appears to be an illegal property project in the industrial city next to Guangzhou.
The report aired on CCTV's Focus Report on Thursday said the officials had personal stakes in the project comprising 10 nine-storey commercial and residential buildings in Dongkeng.
The station said it began its investigation following an anonymous tip that Wu Xilin, deputy head of Dongkeng's public security bureau, was one of the town officials who had an interest in the project. Officials from the town's bureau of land resources were also said to be involved.
Wu, who is believed to have a stake in at least one of the 10 buildings, hung up when a CCTV reporter called to inquire about his involvement. An official at the Public Security Bureau confirmed Wu was under internal investigation yesterday, but gave no further details.
Allegations abound of corrupt officials profiting personally from land grabs in Guangdong. In March, about 400 villagers turned out in Shenzhen's Wanfeng village to rail against the local party chief, whom they accused of making his family rich by selling seized land.
An investigation against the former party chief in Wukan, Lufeng, where mass protests over land grabs erupted last year, was made public in August.
In the Dongkeng case, CCTV said officials failed to get approval for a commercial project. The land had been bought from farmers at a low price because industrial land is much cheaper than commercial property.
One of the buildings was believed to have cost 1,200 yuan (HK$1,475) per square metre to build, but was expected to sell for several thousand yuan per square metre, the report said.
Official approval is required before farmland can be used for non-agricultural purposes, or to use industrial land for residential or commercial developments.
The officials were accused of ordering local businesses to rent portions of buildings as dormitories for their workers, the report said. The officials intended to lease the remaining space to hotels and shopping malls.
Professor Cai Lihui, a political analyst at Guangzhou's Sun Yat-sen University, said it was possible that more officials would be drawn in to the investigation after authorities finished questioning Wu. He cited the cash-for-promotions case in Maoming , in the south of the province, that had implicated more than 100 officials since the arrest of local party boss Luo Yinguo in 2010.