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Hengyang Bribery Not an Isolated Phenomenon

02-25 00:00 《财经》杂志 《财经》杂志

By staff reporter Zhang Lu

The Hengyang election bribery scandal uncovered at the end of 2013 shocked the nation. Provincial authorities disqualified 56 delegates from Hengyang who were found to have paid more than 110 million yuan in bribes to gain entry to the Hunan Provincial People's Congress.

Five-hundred eighteen out of 529 deputies of the Hengyang congress received bribes for their support, while another 68 employees of the congress were also said to have received funds.

The Hengyang scandal is the biggest election bribery case in terms of the amount of money and number of government officials and deputies involved since the founding of New China.

Caijing learned the case was exposed after a number of unsuccessful candidates for the Hunan Provincial People' Congress filed complaints to higher authorities. In addition to filing complaints online, over a dozen losing candidates jointly reported the illegal conduct directly to Beijing. The candidates, who on average spent more than 1 million yuan on their campaigns, felt wronged after losing the elections and not getting their money back.

Before the case was exposed, offering bribes was a common practice among candidates in Hengyang looking to get elected.

The exact time when the bribe culture formed in Hengyang is still up for debate. The earliest documented record dates back to the second half of 2006, when an official from Feitian Township surnamed Jiang gave each township deputy 400 yuan along with cigarettes and other gifts. Jiang was expelled from the Party after the incident.

After the flood gates were opened, the amount of bribes offered rose substantially along with increased competition. Caijing learned that those who offered bribes can be broadly divided into three categories: private entrepreneurs, municipal authorities, and high-level cadres at state-owned enterprises. The latter two categories even got financial assistance from their respective work units to be used for bribes. Those who paid bribes gave an average of between 5,000-7,000 yuan to each bribe-taker, and 518 out of 529 members of the Hengyang People's Congress received an average of 200,000 yuan each in exchange for their support.

Numerous cases of election bribery in people's congresses have been publicly disclosed or reported in Shanxi, Anhui, Guangdong and Zhejiang provinces in recent years. But Hengyang is an outstanding example due to the amount of bribes offered and number of deputies involved.

China's Electoral Law stipulates that county and township level deputies of people's congresses are elected directly by voters, while deputies above the county level are indirectly elected through voting by deputies at the next administrative level down. Provincial People's Congress elections take the form of indirect elections.

Deputies must be nominated first then receive votes from delegates at the next administrative level. The nomination is the fundamental segment, whereas the voting is the decisive segment of the process.

Every election season, representatives with voting power would sit in hotels waiting for bribes. Hengyang Municipal People's Congress staff would also divulge information about the bribe amounts offered by each candidate, suggesting that they offer more. "They will tell you, this person gave 2 million yuan, this person gave 3 million yuan, and if you want to be elected, you have to give more." People's congress staff have even turned giving and receiving red envelopes into a "professional operation"; there are people specially charged with receiving money and others responsible for making contact.

"Indirect elections have made it so local people's congress delegates are elected primarily by officials rather than voters, which creates an environment for bribery," said Huang Yubiao, a former deputy of the Shaoyang Municipal People's Congress who once bribed in his campaign for the position of provincial people's congress delegate. To choose the right representatives, election transparency should be encouraged so that those who are elected represent the popular will, argued Huang.


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