Late last month Guangzhou Party Secretary Wan Qingliang became one of the highest level Chinese officials to lose his job amidst the country’s current anti-corruption campaign, and China media sources are now alleging that a history of dirty real estate deals may have led to Wan’s downfall.
Wan was dismissed from his post for “grave violations to party discipline” on June 30th, a term that is commonly used as euphemism for corruption. and which is frequently followed by prosecution
According to a recent story in the China Economic Weekly, a party inspection delegation from Beijing visited Guangdong Province late last year, and spent a particularly long time combing through the records of Wan and some of his longtime associates, paying particular attention to property-related activities.
The media report cites unnamed government sources as saying the delegation found that some of the Guangzhou’s boss’ buddies in his former hometown of Jieyang in Guangdong province had been involved in real estate deals that appear to have benefitted from official favors.
Jieyang Chong Hong Holdings Goes Before the Fall
The corruption allegations against Wan are said to hinge around bribes paid by commercial real estate group Jieyang Chong Hong Holdings Limited to long-time Wan associate Chen Hongping when Chen was party secretary of Jieyang. There are also reports that Chong Hong benefited from public land sales in Guangzhou after Wan became the top official there.
Chong Hong, which was transformed by now-tycoon Huang Hongming from a minor company in the third-tier city of Jieyang to a major player across one of China’s wealthiest provinces, is now suspected of owing its meteoric rise to the equally fast ascent of Wan from Jieyang party secretary to Deputy Governor of Guangdong Province in 2008, and later to Mayor of Guangzhou in 2010.
After Wan climbed to the top position in Guangzhou, Chong Hong transferred its company headquarters from Jieyang to the provincial capital, and managed to win a number of major plots of Guangzhou land at auction during the period from 2010 through 2013.
The media report also alleged that for at least some of the projects won by Chong Hong in Guangzhou during Wan’s time as mayor, the developer was able to build projects far beyond the specifications in the project licenses – exceeding plot ratio limits by as much as 20 percent in order to reap extra profits from its land purchases.
In November 2013 Chong Hong’s chairman, Huang Hongming was detained by the Guangdong authorities on suspicion of having bribed Chen Hongping. The detention was announced only two months after Huang appeared on the Hurun Report’s 2013 China Real Estate Rich List with an estimated personal net worth of RMB 8.4 billion.
Jieyang Officials Dismissed From Party Posts
Wan’s dismissal late last month appears to be only the latest domino to fall in a string of Guangdong officials who had earlier worked together in Jieyang.
In the beginning of 2013, Jieyang Party Secretary Chen Hongping was expelled from the Communist Party for corruption, and the Economic Weekly alleges that from 2004 to 2008, Chen and Wan had worked as “partners” when Wan had served as party secretary in Jieyang.
After Chen came under investigation, Jieyang Vice Mayor Liu Cheng, Deputy Mayor Zheng Songbiao and other officials were also dismissed from their posts and expelled from the party.
Wan is also now expected to face trial and conviction on corruption charges.
China’s Netizens Cheer the Fall of the “600 Emperor”
Wan’s exposure for corruption has been met with jeers on Chinese websites, where earlier claims of an austere lifestyle have now been revealed as hypocrisy.
During 2011 Wan famously proclaimed that he lived a simple lifestyle in a rented RMB 600 (US$100) per month apartment, and could not afford to buy an apartment.
Even before he was sacked, however, the top official in the city of 8.5 million people had earned popular distrust as the “600 Emperor,” after Chinese netizens discovered that he in fact lived in a building where apartments commonly rent for RMB 40,000 per month.
Now that Huang has been charged and Chen and Wan remain under investigation, the three Jieyang boys who made it in the big city may just end up wishing they stayed back in their third-tier hometown.