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Some put profit before people

Updated: 2015-02-16 07:59
By Zhang Yi (China Daily)

Officials hid dangers of pollution to keep cash flow from mines

Yunnan province, with its soaring mountains, primeval forests and pristine rivers, makes an unlikely backdrop to China's anti-graft campaign.

In the past year alone, the campaign in the province that borders Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam, has netted 37 senior government officials and 228 county-or division-level officials, with still no end in sight.

At the start of this year, the anti-corruption drive of "swatting flies and caging tigers", or going after both petty bureaucrats and high-ranking Party officials, ensnared more officials in the province.

Chu Zhongzhi, Party chief of Dali - a city that is one of the province's biggest tourist attractions - was placed under investigation on Jan 7 for "serious violations of Party discipline", a synonym for corruption. On Feb 7 the same fate befell Yang Wenhu, deputy head of the province's publicity department.

Lei Yi, head of the State-owned Yunnan Tin Group (Holding) Company and former secretary-general of the provincial government, was sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve on Jan 21 after being convicted of accepting bribes of 27.5 million yuan ($4.4 million).

In many of these cases, crimes result from businesspeople and government officials colluding to make financial killings from the province's mineral resources. Yunnan has the largest reserves of aluminum, lead, tin and zinc in China.

Two of the biggest "tigers", Zhou Yongkang, the highest official to be investigated for corruption for more than 30 years in China, and Bai Enpei, former Party chief in Yunnan province, are said to have been the first officials to sell state resources for personal gain.

Bai, who as Party chief held the highest political position in the province from 2001 to 2011, is now under investigation for suspected corruption.

For investigators, the biggest breakthrough in their inquiries came when they discovered under-the-table sales of a lead and zinc mine in Lanping, in the northwest, and a tin mine in Dulong.

In early 2000, Liu Han, chairman of the energy conglomerate Sichuan Hanlong Group and a friend of Zhou Yongkang, is said to have had his eye on the Lanping mine.

At the time, Zhou was Party chief of Sichuan province and Bai was Party chief of Qinghai province, and a candidate for Party chief of Yunnan.

Zhou is alleged to have asked Bai to sell shares in Lanping to Liu. In complex transactions Liu paid just 10 billion yuan for a 60 percent share of Yunnan Jinding Zinc Company, which owns Lanping mine, in 2003. A year later, the mine was valued at 100 billion yuan.

Liu began to reorganize the mining company, aiming to expand exploration. Soon the company had a dozen recruits - government officials who had quit their jobs and were acquaintances of Liu.

Among them was Yang Qian. He became chairman of the board and had been head of the economic and trade bureau, Hainan province.

Yang and others ensured that the company would get favorable government treatment, including help in covering up serious environmental pollution it was producing. After the company began open-pit mining, high levels of lead were detected in villagers nearby, with dangers posed to the brain, kidneys and bone marrow. In 2010, blood tests showed that 59 of 61 children in the village of Jinfeng had high levels of lead.

Tests also showed that lead levels in fruit and vegetables on farms near Lanping mine were 66 percent higher than normal. Liu was executed this month for organizing crime gangs and being involved in murders and illegal detention.

Inquiries into the Dulong tin mine resulted in the downfall of many, including Zhang Tianxin, former Party chief of Kunming, capital of Yunnan.

Others brought down in Yunnan include Shen Peiping, the former vice-governor.


 Some put profit before people

Clockwise from above: Bai Enpei, former Party chief in Yunnan province; Shen Peiping, former vice-governor; Zhang Tianxin, former Party chief of Kunming, capital of Yunnan. All three senior officials in the province have been netted during the anti-corruption campaign. Photos Provided to China Daily

(China Daily 02/16/2015 page5)

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