Owed millions of yuan by a large state coal mine in Shanxi province, the local power company cut off the supply of electricity. The mine organised a workers' street demonstration to besiege the power company's offices. When news of the disturbance reached the State Council in distant Beijing, it ordered power to be unconditionally restored. The report, in the China Youth Daily, illustrates why State Power Corp is owed almost 30 billion yuan (about HK$28.12 billion), mostly by state companies, and which it will never recover because of strong political patronage. 'The vast proportion of the arrears is approved by provincial and city leaders, making it impossible for us to seek help from the mayor,' a State Power lawyer said. 'We can take the case to law. To sue is easy but to enforce a judgment is difficult.' In Henan province, arrears amount to 1.7 billion yuan, with the highest being 90.19 million yuan in one county, some because the business of companies is bad and some because they refuse to pay. In one State Power office in Henan, a deputy bureau chief showed guarantees signed by the city's mayor and Communist Party secretary, one dating from 1998, which said one debtor company was eagerly collecting the money, had a good attitude and would repay soon. That mayor has since left his post, but the company has not paid a fen. The official asked that the name of the city not be published. By the end of last year, the same city's power bureau had unpaid debts of 10.78 million yuan, of which 80 per cent was owed by state firms. Most will never be paid. Firms use armed guards or dogs to keep out State Power collectors. Among the worst payers are offices of provincial governments. They owe up to 10 million yuan and cannot be taken to court. The head of private think-tank Unirule Institute of Economics, Mao Yushi, denounced the practice. 'If they do not pay, the power company should cut off their electricity,' he said.