Why I Wore A Bullet-Proof Vest For The Last Six Years (Press Coverage)

(Xinhuanet)  Fighting corruption using media power.  August 13, 2004.

A letter has turned Lianjiang, a small county in East China's Fujian Province - unknown to most people - into the talk of the town nationwide.  

Written by Lianjiang's local Party chief Huang Jingao and published in People's Daily's website on Wednesday, the missive seemed to have great magic power.  A personal account of his efforts to fight against corruption and the frustration he has suffered, the attention-grabbing document immediately stirred up a public outcry.  The most startling revelation is that the writer has been wearing a bullet-proof vest for six years after receiving numerous mailed or telephoned death threats due to his persistent pursuit of corruption cases.

Though fighting scandalous malfeasance has always been high on the government's agenda, the seemingly unabated run of corruption points to more work needed in this regard.  As disclosed in the letter, Huang is also chagrined at the fact that many Party or government anti-corruption bodies are not the allies in the war against this social cancer.  In many cases, corrupt officials collude with each other in an entangled network to fend off probes into their dirty dealings.

It is to some extent out of disappointment with some relevant anti-corruption agencies that made Huang write his letter to make public his difficulties, probably trying to attract attention from both the public and the nation's top leaders. He has exerted pressure and spurred action on the very government bodies he wants to implore to fight wrongdoing.  Still, Huang's resorting to the media shows his confidence in the power of public opinion.

The media have played an increasingly bigger role in checking and uncovering corruption, demonstrating that outside supervision is also conducive to the anti-corruption fight.  The fact his letter finally made its way to the People's Daily's website, considered one of the most authoritative websites, is a big endorsement for strengthening the media's role in this field.  However, while acknowledging its role in the war against corruption, the media should not stop working in many other aspects to improve the current system.

(Xinhuanet)  Party official, with bulletproof vest, fights corruption.  August 13, 2004.

Ironic as it seems to be, the bulletproof vest has been and probably remains to be a loyal comrade of the Party secretary of Lianjiang County of East China's Fujian Province, where subtropical wind blows all year round over this tiny place in the coastal province.

"The bulletproof vest has accompanied me for six years," Huang Jin'gao, the Party secretary of Lianjiang County, disclosed in an open letter.  He has long known the potential risks in battling against corruption, but he never gives up.

In his open letter he sent to the website of People's Daily dated August 8, 2004, Huang said he is investigating a corruption case in which his predecessor, as Huang claims, colluded with local businessmen in eroding state-owned property. It is estimated that some 68 million yuan (US$8.3 million) of state property were lost in this case.

According to the open letter published by the website August 11, during the reconstruction of a local Binjiang Road project and several other projects, the nepotic former secretary, who had been bribed by the bidders, remised the county land at an outrageous low price without any public assessment. These projects, together with others, led to the loss of state assets valued at 68 million yuan, he said in the letter.

This is not the first time Huang exposed corruption to the light of the day, nor was he on the list of the wanted men by gangsterdom.  He was a key fighter in the investigation of the notorious "Pig Case" when he served as the director in the treasury committee six years ago in Fuzhou, the capital city of Fujian province. The case involved pig-slaughtering practices against state laws and regulations.  With great efforts and determination, Huang helped capture the principal criminals as well as their followers. Some 20 cadres working in the civil judiciary and related system received tough punishments due to their involvement in the case.

At the time Huang enjoyed warm applause from the people, but he also made himself an assassination target by the local gangsters and those corrupted officials protecting these gangsters.  "I have got altogether 26 letters and telephone calls that threatened my life during the investigation of the 'Pig Case'," Huang said. For his safety, "as many as nine security guards" were assigned to his house to protect him.

For his safety, he was transferred to work as the Party secretary of Lianjiang County in 2002, and he was even arranged to live in the army barracks. But he soon found that he was in the battle against corruption again, in Lianjiang, when he learned the corruption practices in the county.

"At first I really don't want to be involved again in such affairs, indeed, for I'm tired of wearing the bullet-proof vest every day," Huang wrote his open letter. "But as a communist official, I ought to perform my duties, that is, to be a real representative of people, to confront the corruption!"

Huang soon initiated a team to investigate the corruption case. They have discovered that apart from the huge property loss, 700-plus local residents' housing interests have also been infringed upon due to the investor's impropriation of the land.

It is no easy task. Though over 10 million yuan has been replevied, far more funds are still lost. Due to the inefficiency of the judiciary work and the intervention of the gangsterdom, the principal criminal remains at large. Huang still has a long way to go on the road of anti-corruption.

"I have made up my mind to fight till the end. All the schemes must get straightened out, even at the cost of my life," Huang declared.

The Regulations on Inner-Party Supervision of the Communist Party of China and the Regulations on the Punishment for the Discipline Violation of the Party have been promulgated and implemented in February 2004. These regulations should help punish those corrupt officials, but Huang still feels puzzled: What is it so difficulty for a Party secretary to investigate and punish corruption cases in his own county?

(Washington Post)  A Plea for Honesty Transfixes China.  By Edward Cody.  August 14, 2004.

An obscure Communist Party cadre in southern China burst into the national limelight Friday with an open letter in which he complained bitterly that his efforts to fight corruption had been stymied by more senior government and party officials.

"I couldn't get any support from local leaders or departments," lamented Huang Jingao, party secretary for Lianjiang county, 300 miles south of Shanghai in Fujian province. "I was puzzled."

In a lengthy account of what he depicted as his crusade to jail dishonest local officials and their co-conspirators in business, Huang decried the "underlying rules" by which corrupt Chinese officials protect one another's backs.

After he took over as Lianjiang county party chief in January 2002, he said in his screed, he was approached by people who complained that his predecessor had colluded with real estate developers to drive residents from their homes and sell government-owned land at below-value prices. His investigations confirmed their claims, he said.

Huang's letter seemed to touch a national nerve. Web sites buzzed with favorable comment on his bravery in speaking up. Beijing subway riders were heard discussing the case on their way to work. Newspapers editorialized about their role in promoting honest government.

First published on the Web site of the official People's Daily, the letter was not unusual for what it alleged. Officials and ordinary people across China have long bemoaned the graft that has accompanied economic reforms over the last 25 years.

"It will be an arduous task for the government to rectify itself and fight corruption," Premier Wen Jiabao acknowledged in his annual state of the nation speech March 5.

What was significant was Huang's decision to vent his frustrations openly and the willingness of China's censored press to give him a national forum. Despite the changes that have revolutionized China's economy and allowed some political and social freedom, information has usually remained tightly controlled; the government and the Communist Party work mostly in secret.

Huang said he wrote his manifesto last Sunday. It was aired Wednesday morning by People's Daily, the official organ of the government and the party. Journalists from Hong Kong to Beijing jumped on the story Thursday. When Friday's editions came out, the whole country was reading about Huang's struggle in Lianjiang.

"Huang's resorting to the media shows his confidence in the power of public opinion," commented the government-controlled China Daily in Beijing. "The media have played an increasingly bigger role in checking and uncovering corruption, demonstrating that outside supervision is also conducive to the anti-corruption fight."

Despite the public attention, there was no immediate comment from provincial or national authorities.

In a string of interviews, Huang, 52, portrayed himself as a former farmer with a middle-school education, a loyal party official who rose through the ranks and wants only to do the right thing.

"I want to be heard, the voice of a party secretary in a helpless situation," he told Hong Kong's South China Morning Post in a telephone interview. "High-level cadres don't know what is happening. Sometimes they are fooled by their underlings. They should know the truth."

Huang refused to be interviewed by The Washington Post. Reached by telephone, he said he was a faithful Communist Party member and did not want to talk with foreign media. "We have party discipline," he explained.

In fact, senior officials last month launched a major investigation into the Communist Party's discipline department after a Hunan province party discipline inspector was linked to economic corruption. Anti-corruption and discipline inspection departments have recently become particular targets for corruption investigators, Shao Daosheng, a retired professor and researcher for the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection of the Chinese Communist Party, told reporters in Beijing.

In all, more than 20,000 corruption investigations have been opened in the first six months of the year concerning what the government considers to be job-related criminal offenses, according to Jia Chunwang, procurator general of the Supreme People's Procuratorate. This represented a 6.9 percent increase over the same period last year, Jia said.

Investigators recently opened an investigation of the former head of Beijing's Capital Road Development Corp., the man who was in charge of the six beltways and other roads built to unchoke traffic in the capital. The official, Bi Yuxi, was being investigated on suspicion of accepting bribes from contractors during his time in office from 1994 to 2003, the Beijing Youth Daily reported Monday.

Highway construction has been a particular source of official corruption, according to Chinese prosecutors.

"There are so many corrupt officials," said a Chinese Internet user offering an anonymous opinion on Huang's letter. "How can we catch them all?"

But another Internet commentator, heeding the party discipline cited by Huang, said: "Such a letter! Is it approved by China's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection?"

Huang said in the letter that early in his career, in Fuzhou city, he uncovered an illegal slaughterhouse being protected by local policemen. Nearly 20 officials were convicted, he said, after an investigation during which he received threatening letters and resorted to a bulletproof vest and bodyguards.

Later, in Lianjiang county, his efforts to investigate the real estate swindle were repeatedly blocked by officials higher up in the hierarchy in what became "a huge unseen net that always wanted to cover up this case," he complained. In all, he reported, the land-development fraud cost the local government about $8 million.

Despite his efforts, the main case was dropped recently after intervention by higher-ups, Huang said.

"For two years, I have felt exhausted fighting against rumors, pressures and sometimes mortal threats, but I never lost hope," he continued. "I have never given in, because I always believe that people's eyes are sharp and the flag of the Chinese Communist Party is always fluttering."

(China DailyBest way to fight graft.  August 14, 2004.

The fight against corruption should rely on legislation and regulations rather than orders from senior officials, says an article in the Beijing News. An excerpt follows:

Huang Jingao, Party Secretary of Lianjiang County in Fujian Province, wrote a letter to the media to reveal his life under death threats over the past six years, definitely becoming a rare example in China's anti-corruption campaign.

China has always been trying to build an effective mechanism against corruption in the past years, especially since economic reform was launched in the late 1970s.

Two models of combating corruption developed in this process: fighting corruption with the attention and instructions of senior officials or fighting it with a framework of rules and regulations.  The latter line has made remarkable progress in recent years after new legislation and regulations were put into effect.

But China's anti-corruption system still needs much improvement.  Admittedly, the senior officials' attention and instructions are important in eliminating corruption. However, it should never be the only way to fix the problem.

It is proven in practice that solely relying on the personal determination and efforts of some officials is costly and inefficient.  If a corrupt official finds he is under investigation by another official, he will try to protect himself by abusing the public power he is entrusted with, either to stop such an investigation, move the investigating official out of the post or even physically threaten the official.  In this way, public power will be misused and the society will suffer setbacks in fighting the social scourge of corruption.

On the other hand, when the anti-corruption efforts are mainly led by individuals, the relative rules and regulations appear to be less valid, hence further weakening the power of rules and regulations designed to combat corruption.

An effective and unified system of rules and regulations is the real cure to corruption. China has basically completed the construction of such a network, although it has still not been fully put into practice.  Another important step is to increase anti-corruption awareness among the general public.

(Ming Pao)  August 14, 2004.




According to Huang Jingao, in May of this year, he wrote a magazine in Guangzhou for assistance.  The magazine sent in a reporter and was ready to go to print when the Fuzhou City government intervened to quash the report.  Huang Jingao was in tears when he found out.  He said that he did not intend to blacken the name of Fuzhou. "It is not as if I did not try before to go through proper and even improper channels to report the situation of the concerned departments."  

After the open letter was published, the relevant departments in Fuzhou held a meeting and determined that Huang Jingao's action represented a political struggle that was an individual action.  Therefore, the Fuzhou government will not grant any media interviews.  On AUgust 12, Fuzhou City Committee Secretary He Lifeng went to Lianjiang and inspected the efforts for the typhoon in the company of Huang Jingao.  According to inside information, He waited until the end of the inspection tour before bringing up the matter of the open letter, but the details are not known.  Huang said that he has a "strong premonition" that he will be transferred away from Lianjiang, possibly even going back to farm in a peasant village.

At the same time that Huang was summoned to meet Fujian Provincial Committee Secretary Lu Chenkung, the Fujian Propaganda Department issued an order to forbid the Fujian media from reporting on this case.  Fuzhou listed "ten big crimes" for him, including "lacking organizational principles, disobeying orders, disobeying the recommendations of the City Committee Propaganda Department, blackening the name of Fuzhou, attacking the preceding County Committee Secretary, etc."

(SCMP via China Study GroupWhistleblower's corruption fight receives acclaim.  By Jane Cai.  August 16, 2004.

Academics have expressed support for Fujian Communist Party cadre Huang Jingao, who has been accused by local officials of committing a grave political error by publicising his six-year fight against corruption.

Mr Huang, party secretary of Lianjiang county, wrote in a letter published on the People's Daily website last week that threats to his life once became so serious that he had to hire guards and wear a bulletproof vest.  He also wrote that he knew he would be putting his life in danger, but could not understand why his efforts had met resistance from government officials.

Hu Xingdou, a specialist in China issues at the Beijing Institute of Technology, said Mr Huang's letter had broken new ground in the complaints process.  "Although we don't know which party is telling the truth, Huang has pioneered a new channel in the fight against corruption," Professor Hu said.

"He is gaining public attention by putting a spotlight on problems. It is a big advance, compared with other means through which our complaints were expressed but received no reply."  He said he did not know about the situation in Lianjiang, but there had been many instances on the mainland in which corrupt officials covered up for each other and supported criminal activity.

On Saturday, authorities in Fuzhou - which administers Lianjiang county - hit back in an open letter published on the city government's official website.  The authorities accused Mr Huang of "complete ignorance of political awareness, party discipline and the overall situation", along with having a case of "inflated individualism".

Mr Huang said he had discovered country officials had approved the construction of a road and dam, awarded the contract to the sole bidder - a developer from his predecessor's home town who was allowed to seize state -owned land and evict residents - and inflated the cost of the works by about three times. The developer pocketed 71 million yuan, he said.  The Fuzhou government also said Mr Huang had changed the nature of the issue from an economic dispute into a political one.

But Peking University sociologist Xia Xueluan said the scale of the claims meant the issue went beyond economics.  "Considering the huge amount of money and officials possibly involved, it cannot only be described as an economic issue," Professor Xia said. "Corruption is not a purely economic issue.  His government superiors should offer support instead of closing the lid or throwing mud at him."

Both academics said the central government should send independent investigators to Lianjiang.  Professor Hu said local authorities would not be significantly punished even if the central government concluded the Fuzhou authorities had lied.  "A system delving into the responsibilities of officials and governments should be set up and effectively operated," he said.

Mainland journalists said the Central Publicity Department had banned reports about Mr Huang.

(Washington Post)  China Condemns Whistle-Blower.  By Edward Cody.  August 16, 2004.

A Communist Party whistle-blower who created a national sensation in China by publicly accusing his superiors of tolerating official corruption has been condemned for breaking party rules and ordered to "do a complete self-examination," authorities announced.

The official People's Daily over the weekend obliterated from its Web site a lengthy open letter in which Huang Jingao, a previously unknown party secretary from southern China's Lianjiang County, had made the allegations that set the country buzzing. In addition, the party's national Publicity Department, which runs official censorship, ordered Chinese newspapers and broadcasters not to report anything more on the subject, Beijing journalists said.

The official curtain thrown over Huang's charges seemed a far cry from the hopeful comment that accompanied his celebrity last week, when government-controlled newspapers published his story and editorialized that press vigilance could help President Hu Jintao's government in the battle against corruption in the new China. Huang himself had suggested that, were they to learn the truth, China's reform-minded senior Communist Party leaders would right the wrongs he was pointing out.

The party functionary, a 52-year-old former farmer with a middle-school education, captured the national imagination with his complaints because most Chinese are all too aware of the official corruption that has accompanied the last 25 years of economic liberalization. The tale of a county-level party secretary recounting his struggles against local officials on the take blew across the country like a blast of fresh air, a sign that China's system could still work to reconcile a modern market economy with honesty.

But Fuzhou city authorities, who have jurisdiction over nearby Lianjiang County, flashed back to hoary Marxist rhetoric in announcing that Huang, by denouncing corruption, had committed a serious breach of party discipline that could provide leverage to China's enemies abroad and weaken its stability within. Fuzhou's party and government authorities, it turned out, reached their conclusion at a meeting held Friday about the same time Chinese readers were learning of Huang's boldness in their newspapers and cheering him on in a flood of Internet messages.

In a declaration put on an official Web site Saturday, the Fuzhou government questioned Huang's veracity and asserted his denunciation was "a serious political mistake" that betrayed his "individualism" and violated party regulations. This judgment by his superiors was made clear to Huang in a meeting with local party leaders who "pointed out his misbehavior" and told him to carry out a self-examination of his conduct, said the statement.

"The direct result of his behavior was that it would be used by hostile western forces, hostile Taiwan forces and dissidents overseas and that it will stir social instability and political instability," it added.

"Therefore, all officials in Fuzhou must side with the municipal government, remember their responsibility of protecting our territory by showing a clear and strong attitude to our party and the people, guarantee the good situation of Fuzhou, which will not come easily, and never let hostile western forces, hostile Taiwan forces, overseas dissidents and Falun Gong activists create turmoil in Fujian Province."

Fuzhou, about 300 miles south of Shanghai, is the capital city of Fujian Province. Lianjiang County, where Huang heads the Communist Party organization, lies just outside Fuzhou. It was unclear whether Huang had lost his job; neither he nor his office answered the telephone Monday.

The national government in Beijing, which has decried official corruption repeatedly and portrayed itself as a modernizing force, had no public reaction to Huang's outcry or the party's decision to squelch it. But in declarations Saturday and Sunday on official Web sites, the Fuzhou government also sought to undermine the substance of Huang's allegations.

An investigation into an illegal slaughterhouse, for which Huang took credit, in fact was carried out by several officials, it said, and one of them was killed for his zeal in probing the illegal activities. Huang, contrary to his recounting of the investigation, was guilty of "dereliction of duty" for not beginning the probe sooner despite numerous complaints, Fuzhou officials charged.

Moreover, they said, Huang's report that he wore a bulletproof vest because of threats to his life cannot be confirmed. Several of Huang's colleagues at the time were quoted as saying they had never seen him wear protective gear and a local policeman was quoted as saying everybody would have noticed if Huang had worn such a vest.

A redevelopment project that Huang denounced as a sell-off of government property at below-market prices was in fact a legitimate real estate transaction, another statement said. The prices depicted by Huang as a way for his predecessor to help business friends in return for kickbacks were in fact the subject of a legal dispute between county authorities and the developers, it said.

"It was only a common economic case, which was painted by Huang with a political color," it concluded.

(Asia TimesThe rare tale of an honest Chinese cadre.  By Li Yong Yan.  August 20, 2004.

Punishable by demotion, dismissal and even imprisonment, dissent from the Communist Party of China (CCP) is rare. Rarer still is dissent within the party hierarchy, since every member stands to gain from going along with such party lines as, "Corruption is a word that labels all other political systems than the communist."

To be sure, an occasional communist official comes along and criticizes the corruption within, but such a brave man will more often than not end up silenced by the party, because what he does amounts to "sullying" the image of the party. Former Defense Minister Peng DeHuai complained about the disastrous fake harvest in 1959, which caused famine and death. He lost both his job and later his life for his troubles, for speaking out and telling the truth.

However, the rarest of all is the Communist Party turning around and endorsing an official who exposed corruption within its own ranks. On August 11, Huang JinGao, party secretary, in effect the chief executive of LianJiang County, Fujian province, on the southeast coast, published a weblog, or blog, on the official People's Daily's website in Beijing. Huang related a corruption case involving a business deal that went sour. His predecessors had signed a real estate agreement with a developer. The two sides then got embroiled in a long-running dispute. Huang claimed that the developer bribed his party colleagues, who then repaid the favor with illegal concessions.

Understandably, obstructing other people's path to wealth and power is dangerous. Just how dangerous is it in the socialist paradise on earth? Huang said he had worn a bullet proof vest for the past six years, understandably afraid of deadly reprisal.

Huang's sensational blog goes to show how dark the sky is over, well, at least that part of China. If the top man in the county wears a flak jacket, a bullet-proof vest, to protect himself against assassination for blowing the whistle, imagine the difficulty common folks have in expressing their grievances. Naturally, the story has drawn a lot of sympathy from China's netizens and, of course, flak from the local party apparatus.

In a reply dated August 15 to the People's Daily, the Communist Party Committee of Fuzhou, capital city of Fujian province, delivered its own account - vastly different from Huang's version, needless to say - of the commercial dispute. It skirted the ugly issue of whether corruption had taken place. The official response went on to discredit Huang as someone who "with a malignantly bloated self-importance, has committed an extremely erroneous act". The best part of the counter offensive is in the last paragraph. Huang's superiors, in keeping with the time-honored party tradition of taking no prisoners, depict Huang as an enemy of the state and the party as denying the offender any chance of retreat or surrender.

"Huang's action is a serious political event that will result in providing fodder for the hostile forces in the West, Taiwan and cause social unrest," the Communist Party of Fuzhou said. The party committee concludes the barrage with a call to arms: "All leading officials in Fuzhou City must conform with the Party Committee and defeat sabotage attempts by hostile forces in the West, Taiwan, overseas democracy activists and Falungong members."

There, in one fell swoop, Huang has been cast into the camp of "anti-China forces" bent on disrupting the stability of the commercially bustling and economically expanding Fujian province.
In fact, the most surprising thing about this public display of a power struggle inside the tightly disciplined party is that Huang's letter got published at all, keeping in mind that the Internet forums in China are closely monitored by police who never fail to filter out such words and phrases as "democracy", "freedom" and "dictatorship". That it took the People's Daily only three short days - hardly enough time to investigate and check on the Kevlar jacket aspect - to post the blog on the web is pregnant with political significance and intrigue. Only one explanation is probable: some very important person in the Communist Party Central Committee gave the green light.

There is no knowing at present who this very important communist is, or why he let the story run. In any event, a mini-crisis has been unleashed for President Hu Jintao, who also holds the more important post of general secretary of the CCP. On the one hand, Hu cannot afford to sweep it under the rug and pretend nothing has happened - not after the provincial party mandarins responded by calling the incident a "serious political struggle", a thinly veiled attack on the People's Daily, the official mouthpiece of the Communist Party Central Committee.

By taking on the People's Daily, Fujian province is making a statement against the central authority, flinging down the gauntlet, as it were. Failing to suppress local challenges will be viewed as a weakness. On the other hand, reformist President Hu will be seen as anti-corruption if he backs the Fujian province, and he will lose all the remaining moral support from the silent majority. Further, it would be an equally difficult decision to try to remove the entire bunch of a provincial leadership, assuming Hu possesses the power to do so. That in itself is a big question mark.

Yet, the Chinese word "crisis" has two parts: danger and opportunity. The rare incident of a party official publishing a weblog criticizing his own party can well be the start of a campaign to get rid of Hu's opponents ahead of the upcoming Fourth Plenary Session of the Communist Party's 16th Congress scheduled for late September. Some media outlets already are allowing the publication of criticism of corruption and malfeasance of anti-Hu forces - presumably those loyal to former president Jiang Zemin who currently is the powerful chairman of the party's Central Military Commission. The move to publish criticism may well be an effort to discredit the anti-reformist movement.

This is a time-tested tradition, too. For those unfamiliar with contemporary Chinese history, the Cultural Revolution started in a similar fashion. Mao Zedong was unhappy with the different views of some of his colleagues, whom he termed "capitalist roaders". What he did was to find a "breakthrough point". As it happened, a young student published a wall poster sharply criticizing the Communist Party committee of his university. Mao then cast his vote of support for the student - against a branch of his own party organization.

Such tactics are common, even pedestrian, but effective in testing opponents' strength and exploring their weaknesses and, at the same time, enabling one to see which side fellow Politburo members will take. If it doesn't work, it will be the little guy's neck on the line. If it succeeds, the invisible VIP behind the People's Daily will come out and ride on the waves to crush the clueless enemies.

(Japan Times)  A lonely stand against the party machine.  By Frank Ching.  August 21, 2004.

The extraordinary story of a county Communist Party secretary's lonely six-year battle against corruption in coastal Fujian Province, unveiled last week on the Web site of the official People's Daily newspaper, on one level marks a personal crusade.

On a different level it marks another step in the tug of war between the country's increasingly assertive press and the Communist Party's desire to hold onto its monopoly on power by keeping the media on a tight leash. It also highlights the ambiguous role of the press in the campaign against corruption, one of the country's most serious problems.

Huang Jingao, party secretary of Lianjiang County, disclosed in an open letter posted on the People's Daily Web site that he had to wear a bulletproof vest for the last six years because of numerous threats on his life. According to Huang, his campaign against corruption began in 1998 when, as director of the finance commission in Fuzhou, the provincial capital, he investigated a gang that controlled the pig-slaughter market. He said it took four years to bring the gang to justice, during which time he received threatening letters and phone calls.

In early 2002, he became party secretary of Lianjiang -- a county that includes the island of Matsu, which is under Taiwan's control. Soon, he began investigating accusations that his predecessor had colluded with real-estate developers to sell them government land at low prices while depriving displaced residents of proper compensation. Huang said he could not get any cooperation from other officials. "I was puzzled," he said.

The appearance of the letter on the Web site of the People's Daily suggests, at the least, a degree of official sympathy for Huang. Soon other newspapers and Web sites began to carry the story. The English-language China Daily, too, carried accounts of Huang's plight. "Huang's resorting to the media shows his confidence in the power of public opinion," the China Daily commented. "The media has played an increasingly bigger role in checking and uncovering corruption, demonstrating that outside supervision is also conducive to the anti-corruption fight."

Another paper, the Beijing News, commented that the fight against corruption should "rely on legislation and regulations" rather than on orders from senior officials. Clearly sympathetic to Huang, the paper declared: "If a corrupt official finds he is under investigation by another official, he will try to protect himself by abusing the public power he is entrusted with, either to stop such an investigation, move the investigating official out of the post or even physically threaten the official."

By Monday, however, the tide had turned against Huang. The People's Daily removed from its Web site the open letter from Huang and the party's publicity department reportedly ordered other newspapers and broadcasters not to say anything more on the issue.

These moves followed action by the provincial authorities in Fujian, who published an 11,000-word defense on their Web site. They denied Huang's charges and accused him of lacking political awareness and of ignoring party discipline and the overall situation.

A joint statement by the Fuzhou party committee and the municipal government also charged that Huang, by writing to the People's Daily, had provided ammunition to "hostile forces in the West and Taiwan" and had "caused political instability."

It is perhaps inevitable that the central authorities would support the provincial officials rather than a lowly county party secretary, although it is entirely possible that the central government will conduct its own investigation into the whole affair. Still, it does appear that Huang can no longer work effectively in Fujian province.

As is often the case, the Lianjiang affair is unlikely to be straightforward. It is likely to involve different local interests and, in all likelihood, various interests at the central level as well. But at the very least this case shows that the existing system for investigating and prosecuting cases of corruption do not work sufficiently well.

One of the most important questions raised by the Huang Jingao case is what the role of the media should be in the campaign against corruption. An unfettered media can play a major role in the anticorruption campaign.

Yet the party is fearful that giving the media free rein may result in the disclosure of embarrassing stories about key officials, not only in the provinces but in Beijing as well. But this is a nettle that the party must grasp.

(Reuters)  China Graft-Buster Under Surveillance-Sources.  By Benjamin Kang Lim.  November 9, 2004.

The Communist Party chief of a Chinese county, who wears a bullet-proof vest because of death threats, has been placed under surveillance after accusing his bosses of blocking corruption probes, sources said on Tuesday.

Seven people were secretly detained after they tried to help Huang Jin'gao, party chief of Lianjiang county in southeastern Fujian province, two sources familiar with his plight said, a move that threatens to undermine China's pledge to fight graft and promote the rule of law.

Huang's superiors in the provincial capital Fuzhou, which has jurisdiction over nearby Lianjiang county, had started investigations against him, the sources said.

"Huang Jin'gao is still Lianjiang county's (party) secretary, but he has been rendered ineffective," a government source told Reuters.

"Lianjiang county officials have been told to make a clear break from Huang Jin'gao and march in step with Fuzhou," said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The previously unknown Huang burst into national stardom in August when he went public with his predicament in a letter to the online edition of the People's Daily, the party mouthpiece -- an unusual move in a country that opts for political correctness over individualism.

The 52-year-old, one-time farmer said in the letter he had to wear a bulletproof vest for six years after receiving 26 death threats by telephone or mail over his unrelenting battle against corruption.

He blew the whistle on Fuzhou officials, accusing them of selling government land at prices below market value and denying displaced home owners proper compensation.

Chinese Internet users hailed Huang as a hero, but his bosses yanked his letter from the Internet and denounced him in a Web statement for fanning "social and political instability" and committing a "grave political mistake." Fuzhou denied any wrongdoing.

Chinese state media have been ordered not to report on Huang's predicament.  

Huang's office, home and cell phones were bugged and he was watched around the clock, the sources said. His request to attend the Central Party School in Beijing, which trains Communist Party apparatchiks, has been rejected.

He keeps a bulletproof vest by his side to this day, the sources said. He was barred from returning home for weeks and allowed to meet his wife only in September.

"This is political terrorism. The people are in a state of anxiety," said the second source who spoke to Huang recently.  "He is not allowed to leave Lianjiang," the source said. "Fuzhou is afraid he will go to Beijing and tell the truth."

Lianjiang county, facing the Taiwan-controlled island of Matsu, is one of China's biggest producers of aquatic products. It has a population of 620,000 in an area of 460 sq miles.

Huang declined to be interviewed, saying that as a Communist Party member for more than 30 years, he was not allowed to talk to foreign media without the permission of his superiors.  "I can't talk to foreign media. I would be breaching party discipline," Huang said by telephone.  A Fuzhou official declined to comment.

The scourge of graft was virtually wiped out in the years after the Communists swept to power in 1949 but has made a comeback in the wake of economic reforms in the past two and a half decades.  Leaders have warned in recent years that the party faces self-destruction if it fails to rein in corruption, which served to topple many imperial dynasties.

Corruption has spawned popular anger and instability lurks in the world's most populous nation.  Millions of state workers are unemployed, millions more farmers are impoverished, many young people have been deprived of education due to exorbitant tuition fees and thousands of urban residents have been forced from their homes to make way for skyscrapers.

(Washington Post)  Chinese Whistle-Blower Punished.  By Edward Cody.  November 12, 2004.

A Communist Party cadre who briefly rose to fame in China by denouncing official corruption has been relieved of his duties and placed under a form of house arrest while authorities investigate his conduct, friends and neighbors said Thursday.

The case of Huang Jingao, party secretary for Lianjiang county in Fujian province, demonstrated the potential cost of speaking out against China's pervasive corruption, despite repeated pledges from leaders in Beijing to prosecute city, county and provincial officials on the take.

Huang generated a national buzz in August when he wrote an open letter complaining that his efforts to investigate and prosecute corruption were being stymied by higher-level party and government officials because of what he called "the underlying rules" by which unscrupulous functionaries protect one another.

The letter, which was posted on the Web site of the People's Daily, the party's official newspaper, became an immediate sensation. Internet users across the country chatted about Huang's integrity. Editorialists in Beijing exulted in the airing of his charges by the party's own press. And ordinary Chinese, inured to official corruption, commented on his bravery.

But within a few days, the letter was taken down from the People's Daily site, and Huang was called on the carpet by party authorities in Fuzhou, the nearby provincial capital, 300 miles south of Shanghai. In a statement using 1960s-vintage Marxist-Leninist rhetoric, they accused him of "individualism" and ordered him to "do a complete self-examination."

In the weeks since then, Huang has been rendered unable to perform his duties as the county's party secretary and has been in effect replaced by his deputy, according to his friends and neighbors. Although he still has his title, he has been confined to his home or office, according to a source aware of the situation.

"In other words, Huang Jingao has been shelved," one acquaintance said.

Seven people have been detained for questioning as part of the investigation against Huang, a Lianjiang official said. One was a vegetable farmer who was urged to accuse Huang of accepting bribes, the official added, while another was a deputy of Huang's who went to Beijing in an effort to bring Lianjiang's corruption cases to the attention of national-level officials.

Huang's anti-corruption efforts centered on what he described as crooked deals in which officials took bribes to confiscate peasants' land and sell it at below-market prices to developers. Such land confiscations have become one of China's most common points of conflict.