Monday, October 20, 2008

Killing the Monkey to Scare the Chickens

Over the weekend the vice mayor of Beijing, Liu Zhihua was sentenced to death, suspended for two years.

Basically if he is on good behaviour, his death sentence could be commuted to life in prison.

His crime?

For taking some 6.97 million yuan or about $1 million in bribes while he was vice mayor and director of the management committee of Zhongguancun Science Park from 1999 to 2006.

Liu, 59, was in charge of construction, real estate, sports and traffic projects which happened to coincide when Beijing was named the host city of the 2008 Olympics.

What is also interesting was that he had several mistresses, and one of them who was also charged, Wang Jianrui, helped him benefit from these deals. The verdict on her case has yet to be decided.

While Chinese state media want to announce that a top official was caught, it's also embarassing that it was related to the Olympics. That's why the court case was heard now and not earlier, even though he was expelled from the party in 2006.

Some newspapers have this news item buried a few pages in, or a short paragraph on the front page.

Nevertheless, what is also intriguing is Liu's past.

Forty years ago he started off as a coal mine worker just at the beginning of the Cultural Revolution.

When it ended about 10 years later, Liu enrolled in a Beijing college.

From there he climbed up the municipal ladder, as head of the Beijing labor bureau, Party Secretary of Xicheng District in Beijing, and secretary-general of the Beijing municipal government.

Starting with a physically laborious job and then moving up the ranks with the rich and powerful, Liu got caught with his hand at the till.

The central government is hoping this is a lesson to all those senior officials who dare to ingratiate themselves at the expense of the people.

But when salaries are relatively low, it can be too tempting to try to benefit from the system once in a while, and for some, it becomes a regular habit.

The entire power structure needs to be changed, but it's in the best interests of those in the system to keep it going.

In the meantime, with no checks and balances, and no free press, how can corruption ever be rooted out?

1 comment:

ks said...

a good start to clean up corruptions. but there is still a lot of obstacles ahead due to the powerful background figures.