China economy

Chinese city seeks truce after solar tycoon slams its ‘lazy’ party boss over land deal dispute

Authorities in Dezhou say they will try to resolve their differences with solar entrepreneur Huang Ming after he takes aim at its party boss on social media

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 February, 2018, 10:47pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 21 February, 2018, 6:14pm

A municipal government in eastern China has pledged to work with a prominent entrepreneur to resolve a long-running dispute over an alleged broken promise on a land deal after the businessman took to social media to lash out at the city’s “lazy” Communist Party boss.

It is the second time in two months that a mainland administration has been forced to respond publicly to complaints from businessmen on social media.

In a strongly worded online statement on Wednesday, Himin Solar Energy Group chairman Huang Ming accused Chen Yong, the party secretary of Dezhou, Shandong province, of not signing over blocks of land to his company as promised in return for Himin building venues and facilities for the International Solar Cities Congress in 2010.

“Back then, the municipal government contacted, or even ordered, Himin to spend a large amount on the congress, with the company taking on huge loans,” Huang said in the post, which has since been deleted. “I have reported Chen Yong to the relevant authorities.”

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Chen became the city’s party boss in 2015, well after the solar congress was held.

In the post, Huang said his company spent about 1 billion yuan and borrowed another 2 billion yuanto build the congress facilities and revamp a nearby village. In return, Huang said, his company was to be given land in the village and surrounding areas.

The village’s residents have been relocated but Huang’s company still has not been given the blocks, according to the post.

“The central government has called for improvements in the business environment,” Huang said. “But since September last year, we have requested meetings with secretary Chen Yong through various channels and he has used various excuses to turn down the requests.”

In an online statement on Monday, Dezhou’s propaganda office said city officials had talked to Huang and would look into ways to help Himin in a pragmatic manner in accordance with the law.

It added that Himin and other companies had encountered “operational difficulties” during a time of “structural upgrades” and the city government had done “tremendous work” to help them, including with financing.

Calls to Himin’s office went answered on Tuesday.

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In 2010, Huang gained prominence in China with his vision for a new industrial zone in Dezhou that he touted as China’s clean-tech version of Silicon Valley.

A year later Huang was honoured with a “alternative Nobel” Right Livelihood Award from a Swedish foundation for developing “cutting-edge technologies for harnessing solar energy”.

According to Chinese media reports, Himin has shelved plans to go public three times over the years.

Chinese economist Hu Xingdou said it was very common for city officials not to follow through on promises because they were not subject to public scrutiny.

“They feel that they won’t be punished,” Hu said. “It was worth making a public complaint online in this case so that the central government is aware of such problems.”

Dezhou’s public pledge comes just weeks after Heilongjiang authorities told the administrators in Yabuli to apologise for occupying land leased by ski resort operator Sun Mountain and for “improper intervention” in the company’s business operations.

The order came after company chairman Mao Zhenhua released a video claiming that Sun Mountain had been treated unfairly by the Yabuli Administrative Committee.