ANTI-CORRUPTION CRACKDOWN
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Xi Jinping's anti-graft campaign

China’s anti-graft investigation of Guangdong’s vice-governor ‘linked to Dongguan’s sex trade’

Liu Zhigeng, who was placed under investigation on Thursday for ‘severe violations of party discipline’, had been mayor of city known as China’s sex capital

PUBLISHED : Friday, 05 February, 2016, 4:30pm
UPDATED : Friday, 05 February, 2016, 4:51pm

An investigation into the vice-governor of Guangdong province over alleged “severe violations of Chinese Communist Party discipline” – a common euphemism for corruption or bribery – is reportedly linked to the city of Dongguan’s once vibrant sex trade, mainland media reports.

However, Guangdong political observers had widely expected Liu Zhigeng to be placed under investigation up to two years ago after Dongguan became the focus of an unprecedented crackdown on vice, which eventually spread throughout the nation.

Before becoming Guangdong’s vice-governor, Liu spent seven years in Dongguan as its mayor and party secretary.

China’s top anti-graft agency, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, said on Thursday that Liu, 59, was now under investigation because of alleged “severe violations of party discipline”.

READ MORE: Lavish lifestyle of disgraced Guangzhou party chief Wan Qingliang to feature on anti-graft TV series

He is the third deputy provincial-level cadre to be caught up in the anti-corruption campaign was launched since President Xi Jinping came to power in late 2012.

Previously, former Guangzhou party secretary Wan Qingliang and one-time Guangdong Political Consultative Conference chairman Zhu Mingguo were both placed under investigation by anti-corruption authorities.

In the past Liu was also the mayor of Qingyuan, a city in northwestern Guangdong, and also held other government positions in Shenzhen.

During his time in Dongguan, the city became Guangdong’s economic powerhouse, but it also gained an unwanted reputation as the mainland’s sex capital.

READ MORE: Disgraced former Guangzhou party secretary Wan Qingliang kicked out of party

Its standardised sex services attracted vast numbers of customers from across the mainland, as well as numerous clients from Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan.

Political observers said Liu had been blamed by officials for failing to upgrade Dongguan’s industrial structure, after falling into a slump after years as an important manufacturing hub.

Local Dongguan academics and entrepreneurs told the South China Morning Post that Liu should be held responsible for wasting large amounts of government funding that had been provided for use by entrepreneurs in the field of technological advancements.

READ MORE: Crackdown on Dongguan sex trade leaves wider economy in slump

It has also been alleged that Liu acted as the strongest protector of businesses involved in Dongguan’s sex trade.

A report by media group Caixin quoted a source that said Liu had been detained on Thursday. Only the day before he had been involved in inspecting measures that had been put in place to help relieve Lunar New Year transport congestion in the city of Shaoguan.

The same source said that Liu had come to the attention of investigators from the end of 2013 after inspectors from the anti-graft agency were stationed in Guangdong following a large number of complaints made about him involving his time in Dongguan.

“Liu was referred as the protector of Dongguan’s sex trade,” the source said.

“The complaints involved a number of other senior officials, but it requires time and strategy to net them all,”the source was quoted as saying by Caixin.

His relatives have also been accused of operating Dongguan entertainment venues and property enterprises involved in the sex trade.

On Friday the online portal of China Business News reported allegations that relatives of Liu had been involved in a number of sex-trade related businesses in Dongguan.

“This includes Liu’s wife controlling fire safety permits of all Dongguan’s entertainment establishments,” said the report, quoting a complaint made by Dongguan entrepreneur Gu Chengye. “His sister and brother-in-laws own a property development enterprise.

“One of his relatives operates a number of entertainment venues [involved in the sex trade], including the Dongguan Royal Dynasty Night Club. A girl died there some years ago [as a result of a drug overdose,” the report claimed.

Liang Guoying,the former first deputy mayor of Dongguan, who was one of Liu’s allies, was removed from his post in September 2014 and stripped of his party membership.

Wan Qingliang stood trial last December in a Guangxi court and confessed to taking bribes of more than 110 million yuan. A verdict has yet to be given in the case.

No further announcement has been made about Zhu Mingguo, who has yet to face trial.