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Hundreds of Local Chinese Lawmakers Dismissed Over Massive Bribery Scandal

China's southern Hengyang city has dismissed most members of its legislature after they were found to have taken millions of dollars in bribes in a massive election fraud.

According to the report from Hunan Daily published on December 28, 3013, 518 Hengyang lawmakers and 68 staff members were found to have accepted bribes, and 512 lawmakers were dismissed. Provincial authorities disqualified 56 delegates who were found to have paid more than 18 million US dollars in bribes to gain entry to the provincial body.

According to Qiao Mu, director of the Center for International Communication Studies at Beijing Foreign Studies University, becoming a member of the congress opens up a network for contact with politicians and business people. The cash-for-vote problem has become more widespread since the party introduced competitive elections at the local level a few years ago. 

A cartoonist drew a picture based on the scandal. Photo from Weibo

Photo by cartoonist Zhao Guoping from Sina Weibo

State media Xinhua wrote:

Thorough investigations and severe punishment must be done to maintain the party's reverence and the people's trust in the country's fundamental political system. 

China Daily explained the significance of authorities’ reaction

Bribery scandal in Hengyang shows strengthened efforts to build a clean and transparent election system are necessary. 

The bribery scandal has many web users asking, is the bribery limited to Hengyang alone?

Lawyer Huang Leping wondered [zh]:

钱从何而来?当选后究竟有多少回报? 衡阳贿选实践,将现行选举制度的根子问题彻底曝光,支撑选举的两大力量来源,一个是money,一个是power。

Where does the money come from? How much benefit does one receive after the election? Hengyang's bribery scandal has exposed the problems at the root of the existing electoral system, two sources support the elections: one is money, one is power.

Journalist Shi Shusi raised a few questions:

湖南此次对衡阳贿选案不遮不掩,痛下重拳,严厉追究,无疑是次值得称道的亡羊补牢,也是对各地人大选举敲响警钟。但一根本问题是:这样的贿选案产生的根源是什么?今后如何有效从制度上彻底防范?怎样保障人大代表的选举公开公正地进行?

Hunan did cover the Hengyang bribery scandal this time, which is worth applauding, it serves as an alarm for the election throughout the NPC. However, the fundamental question is: What's the main source of the bribery? How can it be effectively prevented from happening in the future? How can an open and fair election be guaranteed?

TV host Zhang Liyuan echoed:

这种贿选在全国不会是个例,如果不赋予人民真正的选举权,选举最后就是官员暗箱操作的一场秀。规范民主选举制度,不是惩治了几个贿选干部就解决的事!

This is by no means an individual bribery case, if you do not give people the real right to vote, elections are just a show performed by the officials. Regulating a democratic electoral system is the key, it's not just about punishing a few bribery cadres.

User “Hong Jingtian” thought the election itself is far from ordinary people's lives:  

其实湖南贿选事件只是冰山一角而已。看看全国的村委会选举,贿选是普遍现象。对于老百姓来说,谁当官跟自己没有任何关系。你给我钱我就收着,选谁都一样。

In fact, the Hunan bribery case is just the tip of the iceberg. Look at nationwide village elections, bribery is a common phenomenon. For ordinary people, whoever becomes the official doesn't make any difference, whoever gives them money will get the vote. After all, the people elected are all the same.

According to social media, the Hengyang bribery scandal was not a secret. Earlier this year, the case was circulated among some investigative journalists in China, but they weren't able to publish due to pressure and censorship. Doctor Liu Yun from the Haikou College of Economics wrote:

湖南衡阳人大代表贿选案值得注意的是除了大面积大规模贿选暴露的人大选举制度的弊端,还有此案是在中央最高层的多次直接干预下才得以查清并做出处理的。

In addition to exposing the drawbacks of the electoral system, it's worth noting that such a large-scale bribery case was only able to be identified and exposed with the highest level of direct intervention from the central government. 

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