Graft is becoming an increasingly risky business for corrupt Kunming officials and those who enjoy their favors. Last year, the city charged 52 county-level cadres with corruption-related crimes. This year, however, The People’s Procuratorate of Kunming has already investigated three times that number, including several high-ranking bureaucrats.
From January to May of this year, provincial prosecutors opened inquiries involving 154 public officials suspected of corruption and bribery, newspaper Legal Daily is reporting. In a vague briefing, a representative from the Procuratorate described the vast majority of cases as “serious”, classifying eight as “highly serious” and seven others as “extremely serious”.
One of the “extremely serious” cases involves Wang Baoji (王宝基), former deputy inspector of the Yunnan Department of Transportation. Wang is charged with accepting 2.8 million yuan (US$450,000) in bribes from construction companies to develop highway projects from 2011 to 2013. In the same week, the Procuratorate sentenced Kang Xiaodong (康晓东), eight-year deputy director of the Yunnan Department of Justice, to fifteen years in prison for accepting five million yuan (US$806,000) in bribes.
The Legal Daily report made no mention of what punishment the other 152 officials may face if found guilty. However, penalties for bribe-taking and corruption can often be harsh. Previous high-profile Yunnan administrators convicted of such crimes have routinely faced long periods of incarceration, or worse. In 2007, a former Kunming deputy mayor was sentenced to life in prisonfor accepting kickbacks. Four years earlier, one-time governor Li Jiating was sentenced to death for taking bribes.
The current crackdown on official corruption can be traced back to Xi Jinping’s first speech as president of China, in which he pointedly said the Communist Party must adhere to “strict discipline”. In the wake of Xi’s comments, Beijing has reprimanded thousands of government officials around the country for lavish spending, fraud and taking payoffs.
Xi’s remarks have also led China’s central government to carry out a nationwide audit of towns and municipalities in all provinces. Although unfinished, the accounting inspection has uncovered wide-ranging and serious financial misdeeds, some of them in Yunnan. Last year in Luliang County (陆良县), it was discovered that officials had faked financial data to the tune of 5.2 billion yuan (US$850 million).