8 July 2013 

The FCPA Blog on Friday highlighted half a dozen corruption convictions of senior Chinese officials.

These may be the “flies” referred to by President Wi in a recent anti corruption speech, warning that he would target all levels of the bureaucracy – “the tigers and the flies”.  He said that this is necessary to maintain the authority of the Party, for “…as long as the Politburo always and everywhere sets an example, they can continue to call the shots.”

One of the really big “tigers”, Liu Zhijun, was sentenced today following his prosecution in June.  The former Minister of Railways was convicted on corruption charges involving more than NZ$10 million.  He received a commuted death penalty, forfeiture of his political rights, a minimum term of 10 years imprisonment, and to avoid family benefitting from his crimes, the confiscation of all his property.

Liu had governed the modernisation of China’s rail system, a major engineering feat, spending $300 bn on 20,000 kms of high-speed rail track over a ten year period.

Commentators question whether the prosecution resulted from uncovering corruption or whether it was politically expedient following a much publicised crash of a high speed train in 2011 which raised doubts about the quality of the rail modernisation project.  Another possibility is that it was conspicuous spending that was being punished – police recovered 16 cars, and more than 350 flats from Liu.  He had 18 mistresses many of whom were employed by the National Railways.

Another example uncovered recently is a departmental head in Inner Mongolia. His mistresses jointly disclosed his acquisition of dozens of properties, and the equivalent of more than NZ$20 million.

A Hong Kong academic’s research suggests that mistresses have become part of China’s anti-graft efforts. “Behind almost every corrupt official there is or there was a mistress or multiple mistresses.”  Angry mistresses seem to be the source of web based reports of officials abusing positions for personal advantage.  There must be a Chinese equivalent of Congreve’s observation about scorned women.