This is one Weibo rumor proved true. As early as in July, there were rumors on Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter-like service, about Wang Guoqiang, the secretary of municipal Party committee at Fengcheng, Liaoning province, has disappeared for more than 6 months and already fled the country to the US with 200m RMB (approximately $32m) in possession. Yesterday, official sources confirmed that Wang did left for the US, together with his wife who was a director at the Customs of Dandong city, but mentioned nothing about the 200m RMB.
Rumor also has it that Wang fled the country out of fears of corruption investigations. That is also kind of confirmed. According to official sources, Wang has received the so-called “double expulsions’ (removing from both party and administrative posts) in August. The investigations officially started on Aprill, 28 this year. Allegations included giving and receiving bribes, illegally holding personal passports, illegally leaving the country, and investing in for-profit businesses, etc.
The interesting part is that Wang got on a plane to the US on April, 24, four days before the case was officially registered with local Commission for Discipline Inspection. According to investigation records, Wang applied for a travel visa to the US to participant in his daughter’s graduation ceremony in July 2010 (His daughter has been studying in the US for years.). But for unknown reasons, he failed to make the trip. In March, 2012, Wang applied for a multiple-entry visa again and took a flight to the US with his wife on April, 24. He cut off all communications as soon as he left the country and never looked back.
Back to online rumors, it was said that his investigations were related to a corruption case of Kaite Group, a heating company in Dandong. The company had several system accidents last winter and left many local residences spending their Spring Festival in a room temperature of about 10 centigrade.
As always, the most interesting part of a government scandal in China is comments from Netizens. This time, it’s related to other breaking news yesterday. Yesterday afternoon, an Air China plane bound for New York was forced to return to Beijing after 8 hours in the sky due to a “threatening message.” It was not yet clear what threat it was and nothing unusual was found after the plane landed. But netizens was quick to make connections with Wang’s case.
Popular grass root Weibo account 假装在纽约 asked: “Was the plane returned because there was another fleeing party chief on board?” Then he commented to his own post: “If that was the case, no outbound planes in China are able to reach their destinations.” (Both posts have been deleted in a few minutes.)
He may be joking, but the number of “fleeing” Chinese is definitely on the rise. According to the 2011 Private Wealth Report published by China Merchants Bank and business consulting firm Bain & Company, as many as 60% of China’s high net worth individuals are considering emigration or are already doing so. The No.1 reason is the safety of personal wealth, which is more likely than not to be ill-gotten.
Wang is but one example of officials who fled the country to escape criminal punishments and he is not alone. Even for those officials who are still staying on their posts, many have their exist strategy ready. They are the “naked officials”. It has nothing to do with sex scandals (though it can be if you still remember the group sex photos exposed a few weeks ago). “Naked officials”, or Luo Guan (裸官)in Chinese, are officials who send their entire family and personal wealth overseas. The existence of “naked officials” is such a big problem that the central government has to release special “anti-flight” regulations to prevent its party members from fleeing. Common techniques used include confiscating passports and registering family members living aboard as a way of monitoring. Probably the most severe of all, “naked officials” are usually kept from high-ranking posts.