Xi Jinping's anti-graft campaign

Chinese official stole US$112,000 from farmers’ subsidies ... 4 cents at a time

State media report sheds light on how the ‘flies’ take from the poor as Hunan zeroes in on ‘micro-corruption’ among the lower ranks

PUBLISHED : Friday, 26 May, 2017, 4:40pm
UPDATED : Friday, 26 May, 2017, 11:35pm

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s war on graft has netted many powerful “tigers” but a state media report on Friday shed light on the nefarious activities of some lowly “flies” in Hunan province.

Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily highlighted several cases, including that of Chen Gang, one of nearly 8,000 low-ranking officials in Hunan whose persistent “micro-corruption” has been exposed in a local campaign.

Chen, a finance official in a small township in the province, siphoned off some 770,000 yuan (US$112,000) from the meagre subsidies of local farmers in just over a year.

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He did this in tiny increments, dipping into their allowances more than 60,000 times.

Chen thought the individual amounts – the smallest of which was just 0.27 yuan, or 4 US cents – would be too small to notice.

But he was found out in a provincial campaign that began in March 2016 to tackle just this type of corruption.

Since it began, the authorities have received more than 10,000 tip-offs from the public and investigated 5,675 cases, the People’s Daily report said.

Some 1.2 million officials have been punished since Xi launched his sweeping crackdown on graft more than four years ago, and he has vowed to go after any corrupt official – from the highest to the lowest ranks.

Although the high-profile “tigers” – some of them political rivals of Xi – are the headline grabbers, it’s the corrupt activities of the “flies” that have a direct impact on some of the country’s poorest people.

The report did not specify how Chen’s corruption came to light, but it does reveal how he amassed the money. Chen opened two bank accounts in the names of two friends whose identity cards he had borrowed. He then added them to the list of people eligible for farming subsidies and diverted tiny amounts of money – often less than a few yuan at a time – into the two accounts from other recipients.

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In one example from 2014, the report said Chen had targeted 155 households out of the 22,000 eligible for the subsidies. Chen reduced the amount of money these 155 families received and diverted it to the two accounts.

The deductions were minuscule – one villager was supposed to receive 9.72 yuan but got 9.45 yuan instead. Chen was banking on that missing 0.27 yuan going unnoticed.

And it did – the villagers told People’s Daily they had no idea any money was missing from their subsidies until they received an official notice from the government following Chen’s downfall.

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The report did not state whether the villagers had been compensated for the missing cash and it was unclear where Chen is now.

Local officials were also found to have also altered expense accounts, pocketed money from development projects and collected compulsory “donations” from residents, according to the report.