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China turns corruption into tourist attraction

china execution
About a dozen men have been sentenced to death for their role in the Xiamen corruption scandal  

By CNN's Rose Tang in Hong Kong

XIAMEN, China -- China's industrious tourism industry is exploiting a novel selling point: corruption.

A number of travel agencies have been running an "Anti-corruption tour" in the southern boom city of Xiamen, where the country's biggest corruption case was unearthed.

Xiamen, a port city in Fujian province opposite Taiwan island, has been a popular tourist destination that draws hundreds of thousands of tourists each year to its beaches, charming islands and old colonial architecture.

But it is the insidious side of the city driving the latest tourism drive.

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Tour guides were scrambling for tickets to a government-sponsored exhibition in Xiamen that opened Monday displaying evidence of the "Yuanhua smuggling scandal", according to China's state media.

The scandal involved Xiamen Yuanhua Group, accused of smuggling $6 billion worth of cars, oil, luxury goods and cigarettes.

Seven senior local communist officials, including a former deputy mayor and a former police chief were executed earlier this year for their involvement in the case. About a hundred people were tried on fraud and embezzlement charges.

However, the corruption scandal has spawned an unlikely by-product: tourism.

Thousands of tourists and locals have flocked to the exhibition in a seven-storey red-tiled building in Xiamen, dubbed the 'Red Mansion', where Yuanhua boss Lai Changxing was accused of entertaining hundreds of officials and masterminding his smuggling operations.

Lai, under house arrest in Canada in an immigration case, is fighting against possible extradition to his home country, a move Beijing has doggedly pursued with Canada.

Sleaze spot

China's premier Zhu Rongji, a fearless corruption buster, visited the mansion and ordered local authorities to keep Lai's den as it was, "to be used as a textbook to educate our party officials", according to Beijing Youth Daily.

"At its height, the Red Mansion was a sleaze center and a melting pot filled with money, alcohol and sex… Hundreds of cadres walked into the mansion 'red' and came out 'black'. They became running dogs of Lai Changxing," said the paper.

Lai Changxing
Yuanhua boss Lai Changxing is under house arrest in Canada.  

Several other top communist newspapers published photos of plush apartments with luxury spas, king size beds and onsuites in the once heavily guarded "Red Mansion" where Lai was accused of hiring prostitutes to entertain local officials.

Also on display are a tiger skin, a bullet-proof limousine and several luxury cars Lai gave to police and customs chiefs as bribes, China Youth Daily reported.

The mansion houses a banquet room, a cinema, a Karaoke and dance hall, a sauna center and gym rooms where Lai was said to have trained his 'mafia' force.

However, such 'anti-corruption' tours have raised a few eyebrows.

Beijing Youth Daily warned that if people only visited the mansion out of curiosity rather than 'education', the consequences would be "unimaginable".

• Beijing Youth Daily
• China Youth Daily
• People's Daily

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