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Guangdong ferrets out 1,000 'naked officials'

2014-06-08 09:34 Xinhua Web Editor: Qin Dexing

Political circles of southern China's Guangdong Province are being redrawn as some 1,000 officials either accept demotion or bring their families back from overseas.

After two months of investigation, the Guangdong committee of the Communist Party of China said on Friday that it had found more than 1,000 officials whose spouse or children had emigrated.

Mocked by the general public as "naked officials", these people have suddenly found themselves at the center of the anti-corruption campaign currently in full swing. Question are being asked about how salaried civil servants can afford to have their families living abroad.

An official told Xinhua on condition of anonymity that some 200 public employees had asked their families to return, while 866 agreed to accept demotion, including 9 at mayoral level.

The department did not release the names of those involved, but said that the problem was "conspicuous" in Dongguan, a city near Hong Kong where 127 officials have been demoted, including 19 at county level.

Another city of shame is Jiangmen, famous as the hometown of many overseas Chinese, where 128 officials have been demoted, including 13 at county level.

Earlier this month, Fang Xuan, former deputy chief of Guangzhou City's Party Committee, who was due to reach the official retirement age of 60 in October, took early retirement. He was found to be a naked official and was one of the first to lose his position.

According to sources with the organization department, the investigation was came in response to a warning from a central disciplinary inspection team that there were far too many naked officials in Guangdong and action must be taken. During the overhaul, those who refuse to bring back their families will have to quit their jobs or be demoted.

An official surnamed Liu in Guangzhou told Xinhua he had quit. "I told my parents and my wife about the new regulations of the central and provincial governments, but my wife preferred to live in Hong Kong. As family life is equally important to me, I decided to support my wife and give up my job," he said.

Many people suspected that the options allow corrupt officials to escape punishment. Local authorities say that if confirmed as corrupt, officials will still be brought to justice.

Public resentment of naked officials has been growing. In 2011, Luo Yinguo, then party secretary of Guangdong's Maoming City, was detained for accepting bribes and power abuse. After investigation, it was found that Luo's children had acquired foreign nationalities and he had fake identity cards so he could easily cross the border.

In another high-profile case, the wife of Zhang Shuguang, former head of the Railways Ministry's transportation bureau, emigrated to the United States and owned a luxurious villa in Los Angeles.

Xiao Bin, professor with the School of Government at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, thinks naked officials very prone to corruption, as police found many of them had transferred large amounts of assets overseas and sent their relatives abroad.

"Naked officials are not necessarily corrupt, but they are just one step away," said Xiao: "These people are civil servants paid by taxpayers, but it seems that they are ready to flee for a reunion with their families abroad anytime. This is intolerable in any country."

China has grappled with the "naked official" problem for a long time. According to the selection and appointment regulations issued in January by the Communist Party of China, naked officials will not be considered for promotion. To stamp out the problem, however, tougher measures are needed.

Guangzhou is considering making institutional improvements to deter officials from taking chances. "All officials are required to report information about family members and the information will be verified," said an official. "If the information is fake, the official will be suspended from his or her duties immediately and placed under investigation."

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