Sometimes one’d think that corrupt officials in China put corrupt officials in all other countries to shame. There was Bo Xilai, China’s disgraced politician; there is also Wen Jiabo, China’s soon-to-retire premier. But to be in their fairness, they are some of the highest-ranking officials in China. Zhou Weisi, a committee director at Longgang district, Shenzhen province, possibly the lowest end of political hierarchy in China, was recently exposed to own assets worth as much as 2 billion yuan. He owns so many properties that netizens give him the nickname “grandpa house,” an upgraded generation of “uncle house.”
An online post on Tianya, China’s most dynamic online BBS, first exposed Zhou’s alleged corruption. The poster called himself an “ordinary villager” who hoped to use the Internet to expose Zhou’s evils.
According to the original post, during Zhou’s 7-year tenure as the director of village committee in Longgang district, he illegally seized public lands, ganged up with businesses to start illegal construction projects and unscrupulously brided government officials to gain advantages and protection.
“In local area, director Zhou Weisi owned more than 80 houses, villas and buildings, as well as more than 20 luxury cars. It’s roughly estimated that Zhou’s assets total at least 2 billion yuan. It’s a typical case of small village cadre with huge corruption. Every villager knows about Zhou’ deeds, but no one dares to say anything in fear of his power.”
The post soon went viral and was widely circulated on Sina Weibo, China’s leading microblogging service. As in the case of many recent cases of corruption exposé, Zhou was quick to respond.
At first, Zhou said the whole story was a frame-up. Zhou has long left his post as village committee director. Now he works as the vice president of Nanlian Inc. According to an interview of him by Yang Cheng Wan Bao, the poster deliberately set him up due to some housing disputes early this year. When asked about how many houses he owns, Zhou responded: “I built an industrial district and I paid my taxed. I’m not sure how many houses I own. 2 billion assets are nothing but a joke.”
In a more recent interview by Xinhua today, Zhou admitted that he did own more than 10 luxury cars, including BMW, Porsche and Benz. He also admitted that he did own some of the buildings being exposed online but they are far from 80 houses. He justified his personal wealth as being the result of his construction business, not of his post as village committee director. He explained that most of his properties were bought before being elected as a village cadre. The rest were bought after getting more than RMB 100 million of relocation compensation for his properties in old town. And his cars are all from second-hand market because he loves collecting luxury cars.
Do Chinese netizens believe his explanations? Not in million years. Almost everyone who left a comment thought Zhou was corrupt to the bone and condemned the amazing extent of corruption in China. Like netizen 一叶知洪 commented: “Fool a 3-year-old but not us. Every village committee in Shenzhen is corrupt. And every village committee director is super rich. Real estate companies treat them like Gods. There is no justice in China.”
To make things worth, Zhou Zujie, the poster who exposed the case and a local businessman, was arrested today for falsely reporting the registered capital of his company. Local police in Longgang said the case was in process since May and the arrest was not made due to his actions of exposing corrupt officials. But there is always another turn in a story like this. The arrest warrant was found by netizens to be signed by Longgang Police Department, instead of local Procuratorate, which, local police explained, was a careless mistake.
Other properties said to be owned by Zhou Weisi