China Ex-Housing Official Probed for Corruption, Xinhua Reports

A former Chinese housing official is under investigation after allegations that his family owned 29 apartments were corroborated by the district government, the Xinhua News Agency reported late yesterday.

Prosecutors in Zhengzhou, capital of central Henan province, will investigate Zhai Zhenfeng, the former director of the housing administration bureau in the city’s Erqi district, Xinhua said. The allegations, from a whistle-blower, were first posted on a microblog last week, the agency said.

Similar online revelations in recent months have brought down government officials who maintained extramarital affairs, bought property and luxury items or abused their power. Xi Jinping, the new head of the ruling Communist Party, warned top leaders in November that corruption could kill the party and ruin the country, the official China Daily reported at the time.

Zhai was removed from his post in September 2011 for offenses including seeking profits for his family, Xinhua said yesterday. Among details of his family’s property dealings posted online last week were his daughter’s ownership of 11 apartments and two identity cards, revelations that “sparked outrage” online, Xinhua said.

In a separate report yesterday, state television said the daughter’s properties were purchased during Zhai’s tenure as head of the housing department between January 2002 and September 2010. Four members of Zhai’s family had a total of eight identity cards, with four registered in other provinces or cities, CCTV reported. Chinese citizens can legally have only one identity card.

Discipline Violations

Xi has intensified a crackdown on corruption and ordered officials to abandon extravagance, cut down on lavish ceremonies and live more frugally, as part of a broader push to win back people’s trust.

Li Chuncheng, a deputy party secretary of southwestern Sichuan province, became the first minister-level official to be investigated following a once-a-decade power transfer to new leadership in November. Li was put under investigation on suspicion of a “severe violation of discipline,” Xinhua reported on Dec. 6, citing the party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection.

The nation’s legislature last month passed rules requiring people to identify themselves when signing up for Internet and phone services, a move that may give the party greater control over microblogs and websites that have become platforms for people to air dissent, rumor and claims of corruption not tolerated in print media.

A district party secretary was fired in November after a sex tape of him circulated on the Internet, Xinhua said at the time. Cai Bin, an official in the southern city of Guangzhou was put under investigation for corruption after he was found to own 21 homes, the agency reported in October.

To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Tian Ying in Beijing at ytian@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Tighe at ptighe@bloomberg.net

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