Trade in that car or else, officials told

Teresa Poole in Peking on the latest anti-corruption drive

Somewhere in Peking, a government official must be lamenting the loss of his 1992 Nissan Cedric VIP. At another work unit, a senior figure will be missing his 1993 Toyota Crown Super Saloon. And who, one wonders, was previously chauffeured around in the 1984 Mercedes-Benz with 180,000km on the clock?

Yesterday, on the forecourt of the National Library, these and other vehicles were on display for public inspection. Tomorrow they will be auctioned, the first such sale in Peking of fancy saloon cars which government departments have been forced to dispose of under an anti-corruption crackdown. The Communist Party's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection has ordered officials to trade in their expensive, imported models for locally- made vehicles.

It is estimated that there are 40,000 Mercedes in China, most of which probably were purchased with public money by government work units and cadres; three of the five cars for auction tomorrow will be Mercedes. All the cars on offer are fitted with darkened windows to guarantee privacy for anyone who can afford pounds 15,000 to pounds 26,000.

The crackdown on expensive cars is part of a wider assault on the abuse of power by Chinese officials, ranging from mobile phones and illicit banquets to massive bribery and corruption. The campaign has intensified since the suicide of a Peking vice-mayor, Wang Baosen, and the dismissal of the city's party chief, Chen Xitong, earlier this year. Mr Wang's economic crimes allegedly netted at least pounds 24m of public funds.

Over the past week, details of several cases have emerged which give some idea of how deeply-rooted corruption has become in China:

nChen Suiwen, the deputy governor of Hubei province, became the highest- ranking culprit to be toppled in a stock-market scandal. He was sacked for bribery and speculative share trading - literally "stir-frying" stocks.

n At the Ministry of Internal Trade, 54 people were arrested on corruption charges, including 10 who allegedly took bribes or embezzled more than one million yuan (pounds 80,000).

n Six people in Wuxi, Jiangsu province, have been charged in the biggest corruption scandal since the Communists took power in 1949. Deng Bin, 57, headed a pyramid fund-raising scheme which illegally amassed 3.2bn yuan (pounds 246m) by offering to pay interest rates of up to 60 per cent. More than 300 government units and individuals fell for her scam.

n In Peking, prosecutors said they had uncovered 948 cases of bribery and corruption in the first half of the year, nearly as many as during the whole of 1994. In Shanghai, regulators said they had unearthed more than pounds 4.2m of money stashed away in slush funds by public institutions, mainly schools, hospitals, and state-owned shops and construction firms.

Corruption in the government, judiciary and state industry now regularly tops the list of public complaints in surveys. In an attempt to appease the discontented public, the state media highlights officials who have been rumbled. Last week, for instance, we learnt that in Tonghua city, Jilin province, charges have been laid against Gao Feng, the former deputy party secretary, and his mistress for embezzling at least 70,000 yuan (pounds 5,400). "A provincial anti-corruption inspection team discovered that he had taken bribes and enjoyed the company of beautiful women, after they were told of his behaviour by workers," the Xinhua news agency said.

But the fight against corruption is proving an uphill struggle. Last week it was announced that 11 teams of Communist Party inspectors were being sent out across China to conduct open and secret investigations in dance halls, nightclubs and restaurants, looking for cadres still enjoying themselves on the public purse. "The use of public funds by senior leaders for eating and entertainment has aroused much resentment among the masses," said Fan Xinde, the spokesman of the party's Central Discipline Inspection Commission.

The number of fancy cars on the roads is a long-standing source of resentment for the majority who still travel by bicycle. At the National Library, Yang Baojing, deputy general manager of the state-owned Peking City Municipal Auction Agency, said tomorrow's auction "has active social significance for promoting leadership image". But he insisted that "it is confidential who is selling". All he would admit was that Peking's new "car clearance office" had told certain bureaux that such models were no longer permitted.

Many of the potential bidders inspecting the vehicles, however, expressed disappointment at the quality. "The mileage is too high," complained one man.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe C-Word, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk