Crackdown on more than 1,000 'naked officials' in Guangdong

File: Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Story highlights

  • "Naked officials" are suspected of storing illicit graft cash with families overseas
  • Guangdong to "naked officials": bring back your families or get demoted
  • Fang Xuan, deputy chief of Guangzhou Party Committee, first casualty in war on "naked officials"

In the latest move in China's anti-corruption campaign, more than 1,000 people in Guangdong Province have been marked as "naked officials" -- those suspected of storing graft gains with overseas family members.

According to Chinese state media, Xinhua news agency, an unnamed official source says 866 of the implicated officials have been removed from their posts, including nine at a mayoral level. Another 200 have asked their families to return to China, in exchange for keeping their posts.

Many officials have family overseas, including President Xi Jinping, whose daughter is currently enrolled at Harvard University. "Naked officials" refers to civil servants who have sent their families overseas allegedly with their ill-gotten assets. Moving money and family abroad is often seen as a precursor to officials' own flight.

A report by the Ministry of Commerce cited in the English-language China Daily showed 4,000 corrupt officials had fled the country with at least $50 billion between 1978 and 2003.

The names of the implicated Guangdong officials were not released, but Xinhua reported that 127 of the demoted officials are from Dongguan, a manufacturing hub dubbed "sin city" for its thriving prostitution trade. The southern Chinese city was also the target of a government vice crackdown in February.

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Another 128 officials were demoted in the city of Jiangmen.

One of the first to lose their position from the crackdown is Fang Xuan, the deputy chief of the Guangzhou Party Committee. This month, Fang applied for retirement five months earlier than planned after being "found as a naked official," Xinhua also reported.

China's netizens have largely been skeptical of the top-down anti-graft move. Many commented that the latest crackdown is inadequate for stamping out corruption.

"The anti-corruption drive is basically using guerrilla warfare tactics, shooting in one place then moving on to another. It agitates the chickens and the dogs, but the tigers just relocate their dens," wrote Weibo user "Qin Qianhong."

Since last year, Chinese President Xi Jinping has vowed to clean up the tarnished image of the Communist Party, pushing anti-graft campaigns and pledging to target "mosquitoes" -- minor officials -- as well as "tigers" -- top officials.

Critics say the war on corruption is just Xi's excuse for removing political opponents.

Earlier this year, a report by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists found that relatives of current and former top Chinese leadership are shareholders in offshore companies, allegedly storing away billions of illicit graft gains. The report included details of assets of two of former Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's children.