China probes 431 for electoral fraud

China probes 431 for electoral fraud
A man takes a self-portrait with his mobile phone in front of a statue of China's late Chairman Mao Zedong at an art exhibition celebrating the upcoming 120th anniversary of the birthday of the former leader in Beijing December 24, 2013.

A day after more than 500 municipal lawmakers resigned for taking bribes in a massive electoral fraud, investigations have begun into 431 Chinese Communist Party (CCP) members and government workers.

The CCP's discipline inspection team in Hunan revealed the probe in a statement on Sunday, in what is likely to be one of China's largest anti-corruption crackdowns.

The fraud, involving such a huge number of lawmakers and a large sum of money, is extremely serious and has had a vile impact, the statement said, adding that those suspected of breaking the law will be handed over to the judicial authorities.

China University of Political Science and Law professor Liu Junsheng told The Straits Times that the crackdown is unusual for its massive scale.

"We are seeing an entire group of hundreds being investigated. Typically, investigations revolve around one person or a few people," he said.

While the government has investigated similar local election fraud cases in the past, it is likely to keep a closer eye on such practices in the future.

"You can see from the trends in the past year that the new leadership is stepping up its anti- corruption efforts across the board," Prof Liu said.

Last Saturday, 512 lawmakers in Hengyang city's 529-member municipal legislature resigned after they and 68 staff members were found to have accepted bribes in exchange for votes from 56 members of the provincial assembly.

The total amount of bribes involved was more than 110 million yuan (S$23 million), the official Xinhua news agency said, citing a Hunan government statement.

President Xi Jinping has launched a sweeping crackdown on graft since taking power last year, and is pursuing both high-flying "tigers" as well as lowly "flies".

He cautioned earlier that the problem is so severe, it could threaten the party's survival.

The Hengyang lawmakers met earlier this year to pick 76 delegates to represent the city in the provincial legislative body.

Hunan Daily said the national and provincial authorities started to receive fraud complaints in February and formed a team to investigate the allegations in April.

The elections were eventually declared invalid, and the 56 delegates were also dismissed.

Experts say the eight months it took for investigations to be completed possibly reflected the complexity and scale of the fraud.

esthert@sph.com.sg


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