A senior anti-graft official in South China's Guangdong province on Monday warned of the serious consequences caused by corruption involving village heads and their subordinates.
Cases of village-level corruption, some involving big sums of money, have occurred in Guangdong in recent years, and have led to protests and mass incidents, Wang Xingning, secretary-general of the Guangdong Provincial Commission for Discipline Inspection of the Communist Party of China, said, reviewing the province's anti-graft work over the past five years.
Since 2007, discipline authorities have investigated 7,790 cases involving rural resources, capital and assets, involving 8,121 rural officials, Wang said. All these officials have received disciplinary, administrative or judicial punishment.
As in a prominent example of mass incidents or public protests related to such corruption, in September, residents protested over land transfers, financial accounts and the election of village managers in Wukan village, in Guangdong's Lufeng city.
The standoff between villagers and the local government was not defused until December, when a deputy provincial Party chief held talks with the villagers, agreed that their main requests were reasonable, and promised a fair and open investigation.
A new village committee was elected.
In the latest development, the Lufeng City Commission for Discipline Inspection of the CPC announced on Friday that eight of the nine members of the previous Party and village committees of Wukan were put under shuanggui, a procedure in which a CPC member is asked to confess to wrongdoing at a stipulated time and place.
Initial investigations have uncovered serious problems in the public financial management of Wukan, including depositing public money into personal accounts, a lack of details in financial information made public, and a lack of bidding and signed contracts in land deals and some public welfare projects, the report said.
Some Party and village committee members were found to have withdrawn social security benefits repeatedly and bought private cars with public funds, it said.
Villagers were found to have received very little benefits from land transfers. Land rental from some businesses was not collected on time and village assets were lost in settlements with some Hong Kong investors, according to the report.
Zhang Jingen, a professor with the center for anti-corruption studies at the Guangzhou-based Sun Yat-sen University, said village-level corruption has not received as much attention as official corruption in big cities.
Related information becomes weaker and weaker while being transmitted to higher-level authorities, he said.
The media have not paid as much attention, either, Zhang said.
He suggested that democracy-building at grassroots level should be strengthened, village administration made more open and participation of villagers in self-government be facilitated.