Most of the time the headline news about corruption in China involves a male cadre and one or more mistresses—sometimes with lewd videos thrown in the mix. Recently however, twelve female communist officials have been caught stealing public money and using it to visit beauty parlors. The trend has been dubbed “beauty corruption” by the media.
The Beijing Municipal People’s Procuratorate, or prosecutor’s office, announced the news in early December. All but one of the officials concerned are middle-to high-ranking women from administrative bureaus and departments across Beijing. The only male official was a former deputy director of the state-owned enterprise Beijing Urban Construction, who embezzled public funds to pay for his mistress’s beauty parlor expenses.
Investigations began after an anonymous letter was sent to the First Branch of the Beijing Municipal People’s Procuratorate last March. The letter accused a female member of the department of embezzling public funds for cosmetic treatment, and the resulting investigations led to the discovery of all the other cases, according to the Party’s Procuratorate Daily.
The female official identified in the anonymous letter is 60-year-old Bai Hong, former chairwoman of the Beijing health bureau trade union. Bai regularly visited high-end beauty salons, writing off her own expenses as conference and training fees or office supplies. She was found guilty of embezzling 3.99 million yuan (US$626,145) on cosmetic and fitness services over a period of five years, and was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Some of the other officials accepted bribes in the form of gift cards. Yang Ping, the former director of a business in the Beijing Municipal Finance Bureau, was found to have accepted 558,000 yuan (US$89,442) in gift cards for fitness clubs and beauty parlors between 2004 and 2011.
Wider Corruption Problem
The cases underscore the wider problem of corruption among regime officials in China, which run rampant over the last several decades.
Beijing rights activist Zhou Li told Voice of America (VOA) that male officials commonly accept bribes in the form of golf club memberships or bathhouse services, while female officials accept prepaid beauty parlor cards or gift cards. Zhou said that this type of corruption is considered small-scale, and larger bribes of valuable antique items and jewelry are much more common.
Zhou noted that beauty parlor cases amount to a very small portion of corruption in China. “Bringing this up and calling it corruption is a serious underestimation of the corruption Chinese officials are capable of,” he said.
Beijing resident Gao Hongming told VOA that the cases only prove how ineffective the Chinese authorities are at controlling corruption.
According to Gao, communist officials reap too many benefits from corruption to give it up easily. He called upon China’s new leaders to implement effective anti-corruption measures that guarantee the freedoms of speech and press, which would facilitate transparency and whistleblowing, as well as to set up independent regulatory agencies. Otherwise, he said, the anti-corruption campaigns initiated after the recent 18th National Congress would quickly lose steam, and corruption would continue to thrive.
Netizens Weigh In on ‘Beauty Corruption’
One netizen named Suozhishenshi137579 commented: “This is not a rare case. Six months into his job, our new village head used the excuse of ‘national land acquisition’ to embezzle 800,000 yuan (US$128,330) to buy himself a bungalow. If this were to be properly investigated, it would probably end up with all the officials in our district losing their jobs. This is China after all; it’s not strange for these corrupt things to happen. It’s impossible to get rid of all the corrupt officials.”
Another netizen wrote on Sohu: “If every official who has embezzled at least 200,000 yuan (US$32,080) were to be sentenced to death, then we might not even have any of our village heads left!” The writer was referring to the fact that corruption is rampant even amongst the lowest levels of the Chinese regime.
A netizen identifying himself only as Xu said, “The hearts of these people are black with evil, and yet they still want to beautify themselves on the outside; these people have such twisted mentalities!”
Read the original Chinese article.
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