The village that brought down Guangzhou's Cao Jianliao
The downfall of former Guangzhou senior official Cao Jianliao has been linked for the first time to the development of Zhujiang New Town
Disgraced former Guangzhou deputy mayor Cao Jianliao was part of a web of corruption on urban renewal involving senior government officials, village chiefs and property developers, according to new details of a graft case reported by state media yesterday.
It was the first time state media had given details of the Cao case, linking his downfall directly to the controversial redevelopment of Xian village, the focus of years of protests by village residents. When Cao was toppled last December, hundreds of the villagers lit firecrackers in celebration.
According to Xinhua, the corruption trail began last August when seven Xian village officials were investigated for graft in relation to the development of village land into the Zhujiang New Town project, the designated site for the city's central business district.
The village officials were tried in the Guangzhou Intermediate People's Court and during the case evidence emerged of large bribes given to several senior Guangzhou city officials, the report said.
Xinhua reported that property developers Guangzhou Jiayu Group and Guangzhou Nanya Property Development allegedly paid money to village officials. Lu Youxing, former village deputy party secretary, received over 1.05 million yuan (HK$1.32 million), HK$80,000 and 7,000 yuan in shopping cards.
The trail then led to Cao and He Jixiong , deputy party secretary of Guangzhou's Co-operation Office. The city's disciplinary watchdog found that Cao and He took bribes from property developers that hoped the officials would use their influence to pressure villagers into giving away their land cheaply.
Apart from the bribes, Cao was also promised a commission on future property projects, a gesture of gratitude from the developers, according to the report.
Cao's corruption dated back to 2001 when he was party secretary of Tianhe district, which oversees the village.
The Xinhua report said that in 2001 Cao stripped more than 4,000 Xian residents of rights to have a say over the land's future. Village meetings were also cancelled and replaced by family meetings to weaken the community's unity.
The report did not say how much money Cao pocketed.
The village covers 470,000 square metres but 350,000 square metres has already been leased out to developers below market price, at best fetching 25 yuan per square metre. Property in Zhujiang New Town sells for up to 50,000 yuan per square metre.
Xian villager Lu Youfeng said that more than 300 households were still in the village fighting for their illegally occupied land.
"There used to be more than 1,300 households owning more than 1,900 blocks in the village," Lu Youfeng said.
"The most important thing for us now is to find a way to get back the land that's being illegally sold off cheaply and to overturn an earlier agreement corrupt officials signed to give our land away."
He said the new village leadership was reluctant to revive issues from the past or give evidence of corruption to the courts.