Deputy Mayor’s Travels Raise Chinese People’s Ire

By Li Ping
Li Ping
Li Ping
August 8, 2011 Updated: August 10, 2011

The excessive foreign travels of the deputy mayor of a small city in China’s Sichuan Province are drawing a barrage of critical comments from China’s media and the public.

Xu Jin, deputy mayor of Yibin city, which counted 777,700 people in 2005, proudly gushed on China’s National Radio on July 29 that he’s visited more than 60 countries during the past nine years, and that he profoundly understands the vital importance of planning in advance for the city’s development.

Xu must have regretted his remarks about a busy travel schedule abroad—6.6 trips per year on average—presumably at the taxpayers’ expense. When local Yibin News reported about it on Aug. 1, it left out the words, “I’ve visited more than 60 countries,” according to a Southern Metropolis Daily report on Aug. 2.

Southern Metropolis Daily said it called Yibin News and asked why they had revised the news, and was told by staff that they didn’t know.

Another call to Yibin Municipal Party Committee Propaganda Department confirmed that Xu had visited over 60 countries. Staff there told Southern Metropolis Daily: “Yes. If he said he traveled to more than 60 countries then, of course, he has.”

World Travel Record

The news quickly spread through blogs and weibos, China’s Twitter-like social media. A Google Chinese language key word search for “visited more than 60 countries” conducted by The Epoch Times on Aug. 3, showed more than 180,000 results.

Other Chinese media were also unusually outspoken and questioned Xu’s frequent travels abroad, being that he is merely a low-level official in a small city., in its headline, called it a “World Record by a Deputy Mayor to Travel to 60 Countries in Nine Years.” The article was widely quoted by media.

Liao Shuinan, a commentator with Chongqing’s Commercial Daily, posted an article on China Network on Aug. 3, questioning, “During the nine years that Xu has been a public servant, what were the reasons for him to go abroad more than 60 times?”

Liao said he hoped the deputy mayor would give the media and the public a reasonable explanation, show a responsible attitude, and voluntarily accept public supervision.

Wang Yuchu, a commentator with Chongqing Morning News, posed a number of pointed questions, saying it indeed gives people a lot to ponder.

“As a deputy mayor, is visiting more than 60 countries a common phenomenon or an individual case?” Wang asked.

Wang also wondered how many of the trips abroad were at the public’s expense, and why none of the oversight departments put a stop to such frequent trips.

“There are a total of 199 foreign countries and regions listed on the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s website,” Wang said. “Is it necessary for a local municipal official to visit one-third of them?”

Little Hidden Coffers

In June, China’s State Council asked central departments to publish their accounting records for three types of expenditures—entertaining, transportation, and travel—appropriated by the Ministry of Finance. By Aug. 2, 93 of the 98 central government departments announced their budgets for these three types of expenses.

The General Administration of Customs posted more than 450 million yuan (approximately US$70 million) under the category “purchases of official vehicles and transportation.”

A June 27 audit report by the Audit Commission revealed that off-the-books reserve accounts, often called “small treasuries” or “little hidden coffers,” maintained by 82 central government departments, held 414 million yuan (approximately US$64.3 million).

Only top officials have access to these “small treasuries.” How much these hidden funds contribute to entertaining, transportation, and travel expenses remains unreported.

On July 19, a Chinese vice mayor and a city planner were executed for bribery and for illegally diverting millions of public funds. Corruption is rampant in China and an entrenched part of the one-Party rule, though the higher one goes in the hierarchy, the fewer such convictions.

Read the original Chinese article.

Li Ping