Former Chinese Poverty Assistance Director Charged for Taking 10 Million-plus Yuan in Bribes and Misusing Poverty Assistance Funds

Former Chinese Poverty Assistance Director Charged for Taking 10 Million-plus Yuan in Bribes and Misusing Poverty Assistance Funds
Chinese migrant workers wait in a bus as they leave after their shift at a construction site on Dec. 9, 2014 in Beijing, China. It is estimated that there are more than 40 million construction laborers in China, many of whom come from smaller centers to the country's larger cities to find work. (Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

Liu Kunming, former poverty assistance director of Shanxi Province, was recently charged with bribery and abuse of power. He accepted bribes from 216 people that total 10.4 million yuan ($1.5 million).

According to a July 6 report from Beijing News, among the 216 people, 93 were poverty assistance directors from different counties and cities. These directors tried to get more funds from the provincial level poverty assistance program by reporting inflated numbers of migrants and residents below the poverty line, and falsely claiming some local development projects were qualified to get government funding.

Liu accepted a combined 4.2 million yuan ($611,340) from these county or municipal-level poverty assistance directors.

Another group of people who bribed Liu were company executives. Liu accepted 5.64 million yuan ($820,940) from 114 company owners and top executives who tried to obtain national or provincial-level Poverty Alleviation and Development qualification or apply for funding or low-interest loans for certain company projects.

Other unidentified individuals bribed Liu to get promotions; and a number of veterans bribed him just to secure a job.

The prosecutor claimed that Liu’s abuse of power directly caused a loss of over 3.53 million yuan ($513,810) in poverty-assistance funds, according to Beijing News.

Liu, 65, took office as the Poverty Assistance director in Shanxi Province in April 2003, and retired in July 2013.

Chinese authorities started investigating him in February 2018, almost five years after he retired. He was expelled from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and stripped off from retirement benefits for Party officials when his crimes were corroborated.

Linfen Municipal Intermediate Court sentenced Liu to 10.5 years in prison and fined him 600,000 yuan ($87,333) on April 23 this year.

Misuse of Poverty Assistance Funds Throughout the Country

Several other provincial-level poverty assistance directors have been taken down in recent years. For example, in July 2017, Zhang Xiliang, director of Poverty Assistance in Heilongjiang Province, was investigated; in December 2018, Chen Xiaoping, deputy director of Poverty Assistance in Shaaxi Province, was sacked from his position.

An official from the Discipline Inspection Committee of Heilongjiang Province, the Chinese Communist Party’s anti-corruption watchdog, revealed at a press conference in August 2017 that Zhang Xiliang and three other poverty assistance officials misused a total of 10 million yuan in funds for non-qualifying regions and projects.

In March 2018 during China’s two sessions (National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference) in Beijing, Hu Jinglin, Vice Minister of the Ministry of Finance, disclosed that poverty alleviation funds being misappropriated and falsely claimed is a nationwide problem, and has so far been found to involve 874 counties in 28 provinces.

“Some (funds) went into the pockets of corrupted officials, some were squandered, some were used to benefit officials’ relatives or friends, some were misappropriated,” Hu said.

Prior to that, Hu Zejun, Auditor General of the National Audit Office revealed in December of 2017 that 970 officials were found guilty of misusing poverty assistance funds.

Data released by the National Audit Office in June last year indicated that in 145 poverty-stricken counties, about 4 billion yuan ($582 million) was pocketed by local corrupted officials. Corruption combined with dereliction of duty have caused huge financial losses.

Families in Poverty Denied Poverty Alleviation Funds

At the same time, it is not uncommon for families living below the poverty line to be denied poverty alleviation funds.

In Kangle County, one of the poverty-stricken counties in northwest China’s Gansu Province, a young woman named Yang Gailan applied for a subsistence allowance in 2013. Village officials rejected her request because her family owned three cows, disregarding the fact that the three cows were the family’s only assets. Instead, the village’s subsistence allowances were granted to other families who were much better off financially than the Yang family.

In August 2016, Yang committed suicide by taking poison after killing her four children in desperation. Yang’s husband, working as a migrant worker in another city, also committed suicide after he buried his wife and children.