Chinese Real Estate Records Pulled from Public Scrutiny

By Han Fei
Han Fei
Han Fei
February 19, 2013 Updated: April 3, 2013

A slew of cities in China have recently made it impossible for the public to conduct name-based property searches. The seemingly minor change has wide significance in China, and comes on the heels of a series of recent scandals where Communist Party officials were found to own dozens of houses and apartments.

Activists think that the provision was put in place precisely to prevent further embarrassing episodes. 

It also comes at a time when the new Communist Party leader, Xi Jinping, is waging a public campaign against corruption. The fact that the new provisions were issued in major cities like Shenzhen, Beijing, and Guangzhou, indicates to some that Xi is not serious about his anti-corruption campaign. 

Real estate enquiries are now limited to judicial and public security organs, and are typically only to be made when someone is charged with a crime, according to the new provision. The rules in Zhangzhou, a city in southern Fujian Province, were reported by Southern Metropolis Daily; the local government said it was to “balance publicizing property information and protecting privacy.”

The public availability of property records is crucial in the United States and other countries around the world, involving matters of tax, ownership, mortgages, and more. 

Xu Lin, a freelance writer on China, said he thought the availability of real estate information has become “a nightmare for Communist Party officials.” He said the new regulations are simply intended to protect the interests of corrupt officials. 

“There have been so many exposures of so-called ‘house-sisters’ or ‘house-uncles,’” he said, using the vernacular phrases that refer to men or women who have accumulated vast property holdings through embezzlement. “Officials are in a panic. The provision is issued to protect their interests,” he said in an interview.

 Guo Yongfeng, an anti-corruption activist in Shenzhen, noted that the general public don’t usually own a lot of property. “The owners are mostly the rich and powerful, and officials. Introducing these provisions is simply for their own interests.”

Read the original Chinese article. 

Han Fei