More than 50,000 government employees in Guangdong have been required to take a break from work over the past year – but to a hardly relaxing destination: a hall of horrors designed to deter them from corruption.
Officials gave more details about the mandatory trips as they reviewed the government’s accomplishments in the year through April and marked the exhibit’s anniversary this week.
Party cadres typically join “red tourism” groups, but they are usually brought to the former residences of state leaders and other historical sites that reaffirm their ideological fervour.
But in a departure from the norm, the Guangdong visitors, including 4,000 bureau chiefs and municipal officers, from 800 different departments in the province, visited the 11,000 square metre “anti-graft exhibition centre”, located next to Panyu Prison in Guangzhou.
The centre, opened on April 28 last year, displays confiscated bribes and confession videos from convicted offenders.
It has 85 exhibits and highlights 33 high-profile cases in Guangdong. One of the displays is a replica of the vault where former police chief Ye Shuyang hid his embezzled wealth. Ye stood trial for pocketing 34 million yuan (HK$42.8 million) in bribes and was sentenced to death with a two year reprieve in 2010.
“Officials who have taken bribes must be scared to sweat when they visit the centre,” an office director surnamed Li told Yangcheng Evening News on a recent visit.
The newspaper said many officials have “visited twice” as the first tour was not enough.
Wang Xingning, Guangdong’s deputy anti-graft chief, told Yangcheng that a visit to the centre would be a “compulsory course” for governors and department chiefs starting this year.
President Xi Jinping last year launched an anti-graft campaign against officials of all ranks, or both “tigers and flies”, which has since seen scores of officials placed under investigation, detained or expelled from the party and their jobs.
Provincial and municipal governments also rushed to build corruption exhibits to serve as a warning to officials.
But mainland netizens scoffed at the concept.
“It’s like organising junkies to visit rehab,” a microblogger from Beijing who identified himself as “swat-jj” wrote.
“[Officials] do need a chance to get familiar with what it’s like to be sentenced to jail in advance,” Luo Weiyi, a Guangzhou microblogger, wrote.
Bloggers also ridiculed prison photos at the Guangzhou exhibition centre, saying the jail cells for fallen officials were “more like hotels”.
Last year, several province officials and nine municipal officials from Guangdong were investigated or removed from their positions over corruption allegations, including Guangzhou deputy mayor Cao Jianliao; Lv Yingming, deputy chief of the province's land and resources bureau; and Chen Huayi, the deputy secretary of the Guangdong legislature's standing committee.