Billionaire businessman at the centre China’s vote-buying scandal — New York University, the Clinton Foundation, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe — 45 Members of China’s Legislature Expelled

Billionaire businessman at the centre China’s vote-buying scandal

By Michael Forsythe

Hong Kong: China’s legislature has expelled 45 of its members in a vote-buying scandal that has snared a prominent businessman active in donating to US universities, foundations and political campaigns.

Some of the legislators whose dismissals were announced on Tuesday, all from the economically struggling north-eastern province of Liaoning, had bribed their way into the National People’s Congress by buying votes, according to the state-run news agency Xinhua.

Delegates at National People's Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. Forty-five members have been ...

Delegates at National People’s Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. Forty-five members have been expelled after allegations of vote-buying.  Photo: QILAI SHEN

The nearly 3000 members of the congress, which meets as a full body for less than two weeks each March, ratify laws and government programs, usually with little drama. Members are mostly voted in by lower-ranking organisations, including provincial congresses.

The nearly 3000 members of the congress, which meets as a full body for less than two weeks each March, ratify laws and government programs, usually with little drama. Members are mostly voted in by lower-ranking organisations, including provincial congresses.

The businessman, Wang Wenliang, is a billionaire who made his fortune in the construction business and from operating a strategic port on the North Korean border. Wang has also been linked with entities holding hidden stakes in three condominiums in the Time Warner Center in New York.

Billionaire business man Wang Wenliang.

Billionaire business man Wang Wenliang.  Photo: Liu yuanrui

Through his companies, Wang has donated to US universities, charities, research institutes and political campaigns, including New York University, the Clinton Foundation and the successful 2013 campaign for Virginia governor of Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat. Though Wang is a Chinese citizen, he is also a legal permanent resident of the United States, which entitles him to make campaign contributions.

A woman answering the phone at the China Rilin Construction Group, a company in Liaoning where Wang serves as chairman, said that he was on a business trip and unavailable to comment.

Sig Rogich, an advisor to Wang who is based in Las Vegas, said his client was a philanthropist, an environmentalist and “a man of great integrity”.

Zhang Dejiang, chairman of the National People’s Congress, told legislators on Tuesday that the bribery scandal, which resulted in the expulsion of almost half of the province’s delegation, was unprecedented in the history of the People’s Republic of China, Xinhua reported. He vowed to show “no mercy”.

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe at the Democratic National Convention earlier in the year. The  billionaire ...

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe at the Democratic National Convention earlier in the year. The billionaire businessman at the centre China’s vote-buying scandal also donated to McAuliffe’s 2013 campaign.  Photo: CAROLYN KASTER

Often derided as a rubber-stamp legislature, the congress and its companion advisory body have in recent years become a club for some of China’s wealthiest executives, keen to rub elbows with government officials. Holding such high office also brings prestige and, much like a peerage or knighthood in Britain, is seen as a marker of status in the Communist Party-dominated establishment. In China, it is sometimes known as “wearing the red hat”.

“People within the system can trade interests,” said Zhang Ming, a political scientist at Renmin University in Beijing. “Whoever gets elected will have a pass to do so.”

National People's Congress chairman Zhang Dejiang; ''No mercy''.

National People’s Congress chairman Zhang Dejiang; ”No mercy”.  Photo: VINCENT YU

Serving as a legislator has become so attractive to the wealthy that last year, of the 1271 richest Chinese people tracked by the Shanghai-based Hurun Report, a record 203, or more than one in seven, were delegates to the National People’s Congress or its advisory body. The richest person that year among all three branches of the US government,  congressman Darrell Issa of California, would only rank as the 166th richest if he were a Chinese legislator.

“For reasons that don’t make sense to outsiders given the ‘rubber-stamp’ nature of the NPC, membership in any honorary body is coveted by people who see it as a mark of social status, something to add to their resumes,” said Suzanne Pepper, a scholar based in Hong Kong who studies Chinese elections.

Many of the expelled delegates are executives of private businesses or leaders of state-owned companies, rather than career politicians and military officers, who are also well represented on the body.

The vote-buying scandal in Liaoning has been brewing for at least five years, with hundreds of officials in its provincial bodies accused of engaging in the bribery, according to a report in Caixin, a well-regarded Chinese news magazine. The report, posted online Tuesday, has since been taken off the internet.

In 2013, in the southern province of Hunan, 56 provincial legislators in one city had offered more than 110 million renminbi ($22 million) in vote-related bribes to lower-ranking officials there, Xinhua reported at the time.

Delegates to the National People’s Congress are elected for five-year terms. The current term began in 2013.

News that China faced new accusations of election fraud has drawn some tart comments on social media from people who are not accustomed to what for some in other countries can be an all-consuming obsession with following electoral politics.

“When I saw the news about the vote-buying scandal in Liaoning, I was shocked,” wrote one user on Weibo, a Chinese social media platform. “I didn’t know there were elections in the motherland!”

The scandal came as journalists were attacked and forced out of a fishing village where China has suppressed protests five years after the village received international attention for demonstrations against land seizures.

Wukan remains under siege two days after police arrested 13 protesters in an early-morning raid on allegations that they incited violence and arrest.

Reporters from two Hong Kong newspapers, the South China Morning Post and the Chinese-language Ming Pao, were assaulted on Wednesday night while conducting interviews and later detained for several hours, both newspapers reported.

The BBC also reported that its journalists in Wukan were stopped from entering the village.

AP reported Chinese state media saying that life in the village was back to normal on Thursday.

The Global Times, a state-run newspaper, accused journalists of trying to visit Wukan to “wait for conflicts”.

“Even though some foreign media have been unscrupulously inciting, planning, and directing chaos, local police have not resorted to violence to solve the issue,” its column said.

The Hong Kong Journalists’ Association told AP it “strongly condemns” violence against reporters in Wukan and called on the Hong Kong government to “take effective measures to protect the rights and safety of Hong Kong journalists working in the mainland”.

New York Times, AP

http://www.smh.com.au/world/china-expels-45-legislators–including-one-with-us-clinton-links–over-fraud-20160915-grgzc6.html

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One Response to “Billionaire businessman at the centre China’s vote-buying scandal — New York University, the Clinton Foundation, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe — 45 Members of China’s Legislature Expelled”

  1. daveyone1 Says:

    Reblogged this on World Peace Forum.

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