The party secretary and a former mayor of Kaiping may be stripped of their Communist Party posts over allegedly illegal land deals in the past few years involving large tracts of the city, according to mainland media. The Guangdong Supervision Department and the provincial commission for discipline inspection said the cloud over the future of Kaiping party secretary Zhao Ruizhang and former city mayor Shi Zhaoping related to illegal approvals to develop about 2,000 hectares, the Southern Metropolis News reported yesterday. Former vice-mayor Li Xueming had already been detained, and a number of other senior Kaiping officials faced warnings or disciplinary action because of the deals, the report said. The Ministry of Supervision said on Monday that the approvals were granted between May 2002 and September 2005, when Kaiping had the power to approve the use of blocks only up to 1 hectare in area. But inspections conducted by the Ministry of Land and Resources and Guangdong supervision authorities since June last year revealed that Kaiping officials drew up a phoney city plan and described the 2,000 hectares as 'many small pieces of land' to avoid the need for planning permission from higher authorities. Deputy Minister of Supervision Qu Wanxiang was quoted by the China Youth Daily as saying that the Kaiping case was typical of the kinds of dealings on the mainland and the city had 'deliberately not followed and even opposed' the central government and Guangdong's policies of tightening up on land use. The central government has for years sought to limit the power of low-level administrations to approve land grants because cases of illegal land use are so widespread. A Guangzhou source, whose house on Xiaoguwei Island was requisitioned in 2003 to make way for the Guangzhou University Town, said she did not believe the government could really punish all officials who violated land laws. She said 4,330 hectares - or more than twice the amount of land involved in the Kaiping case - was expropriated on Xiaoguwei Island, and the Guangzhou government had acted just like the Kaiping officials, but still not one had been punished in the provincial capital. From September 15 to November 19, the Ministry of Supervision investigated about 32,000 land abuse cases. Nearly 9,000 mainland officials were punished for violations of land laws and regulations during the period, compared with just 1,200 charged for similar crimes between 2000 and 2006.