Hunan city's top cadres hit in massive vote-buying case

Provincial lawmakers sacked amid allegations they bribed lower-level legislators to secure their seats include many from Hengyang's elite

PUBLISHED : Monday, 30 December, 2013, 4:56am
UPDATED : Monday, 30 December, 2013, 6:21am

Top city officials, schools administrators and corporate executives were among the more than 50 Hunan provincial lawmakers sacked as part of a massive vote-buying investigation centred on Hengyang city.

The names of the 56 provincial lawmakers were released by the Hunan Provincial People's Congress yesterday as the provincial anti-graft watchdog announced probes into 431 Communist Party members and government officials accused of giving or receiving bribes to ensure the election of delegates.

In all, 518 of 527 members of the Hengyang City People's Congress were found to have accepted bribes totalling more than 110 million yuan (HK$139 million) to help elevate the 56 people to the provincial-level body, Xinhua reported.

According to the online portal of the Shanghai-based China Business News, the sacked provincial delegates from Hengyang included: Chen Shusheng, the secretary general of the city government; Chen Susheng, the city transport director; Liu Yunkui, the city tax chief; Yang Lihui, the human resources and social welfare director; and Li Hongfang, the electric power chief.

The dismissed delegates also included educators and businesspeople from a wide range of industries, including farming, cars, health care, mining, drugs and property.

Hengyang, with a population of more than seven million, is the second-largest city in the central province.

Zhang Guo, a lawyer based in the provincial capital Changsha, said that officials were prepared to pay handsomely to secure seats on provincial legislatures, even though they had little real authority and served largely as a rubber stamp for measures handed down by the Communist Party.

"Government officials with seats in congress, especially in the provincial congress, often receive faster promotion," Zhang said. "Business people crave the title as well.

"With 'delegate of the People's Congress' on a name card, they can show off that they have political connections and be given protection by the authorities," he said, noting that the police cannot arrest a delegate without permission from the people's congress.

Zhang Ming, a political science professor at Renmin University, said every province had similar vote-buying issues. He said he expected that the Hengyang investigation would be a prelude to a broader reform push by Beijing.

"This is unprecedented and the decision was certainly not made at a provincial level," Zhang Ming said. "I suspect that a national reform of people's congress elections will be launched. With the exposure of the Hengyang scandal, the top levels may try to send a signal."