A senior Chinese official has gone on trial for corruption after being accused of illegally amassing an international property empire and smoking opium to keep up with late-night barbecue parties.
Yang Hongwei, the former governor of Chuxiong Yi autonomous prefecture in south-west China, was in the dock on Thursday accused of taking some 10.11 million yuan (£1m) in bribes and using the money to purchase 17 properties in Yunnan province and six in Melbourne, Australia.
Mr Yang – dubbed the “druggie governor” by Chinese media – was toppled in April 2011 following allegations of corruption and living an “indecent life”. Mr Yang was also accused of having a penchant for “Kaku”, a potent mix of herbs and opium.
After he was ejected from office, Go Kunming, a local blog, attributed his downfall to the “voracious consumption of alcohol, drugs, women and bribes” and claimed he was known for his “superlative drinking abilities”.
“He was so energetic that he could have meetings in [the] daytime and barbecues late at night for several days in a row,” one source told China’s National Business Daily this week.
Reports in the Chinese media portrayed Mr Yang, 49, as a man whose ego was almost as big as his bank balance.
The Shanghai Daily said his catchphrase had been: “There is nothing I can’t do.” According to the Legal Daily newspaper Mr Yang did not contest the 26 counts of bribery leveled against him on Thursday. “The accepting bribes part is basically true,” he reportedly said. The newspaper said Mr Yang would be sentenced at an undecided date.
Mr Yang’s trial comes as China’s top leaders are pledging to wage an “urgent” war on corruption.
Last month, China’s incoming president Xi Jinping warned senior leaders that corruption had to be stamped out to avoid “seething public anger, civil unrest and government collapse.” Since Mr Xi was formally unveiled at November’s 18th Congress, Chinese newspapers have been filled with an almost daily flow of salacious stories about the transgressions of Communist Party officials.
On Thursday it was announced that Li Chuncheng, the deputy party chief of Sichuan province, had been removed from his post because of “serious disciplinary violations.” The constant stream of stories suggests authorities are keen to send a message that they are serious about tackling corruption and editorials in the state-run media have praised Mr Xi’s apparent commitment to stamping out graft.
“If these questions can be addressed, the general secretary and other top leaders will bring China a great leap closer to realising the ‘Chinese dream,'” Xinhua argued this week.
Meanwhile, hundreds of leading academics, lawyers and activists have signed an open letter calling on China’s top leaders to disclose their personal assets.
The letter, to be delivered at March’s National People’s Congress in Beijing, said such a move was the only way to root out corrupt officials and “build a better China.” Wang Quanjie, a university professor and former Congress member who supports the campaign, said the measure was “the ultimate weapon for fighting corruption and building a [clean and transparent] government.
“Disclosure of assets is a road China must take, [it is] just a matter of time.”