The Anonymous SMS message from Pingdingshan

Henan: The District Party Secretary sent mass numbers of SMS to insult the City Party Secretary, and a big government official corruption case was exposed.  March 3, 2007.   By Jia Yun.  News of the Communist Party of China, People's Daily.

Since last year, the biggest government official transition in the history of new China began to take place across the country.  In order to ensure that the transition within local party organizations occurs smoothly, the Party Central issued a notice to pay serious attention to personnel discipline and provide an environment of clean government.  Yet, the officials in Pingdingshan city in Henan never imagined that the violation of discipline was not about "selling government positions" or "buying votes".  Instead, this was about an abusive SMS message!

Allegedly, this SMS message contained insults against the city party secretary Deng Yongjian and called for the various representatives not to vote for Deng as party secretary again.  This occurred more than one month before the seventh meeting of the party representatives in Pingdingshan city.  Surprisingly, the sender of the SMS message turned out to be Du Xin, the party secretary of the Xinhua district in Pingdingshan city.  Even more surprising, when the relevant departments investigated Du Xin, they uncovered a huge corruption case involving Du Xin and more than 100 other officials as well as large sums of money.

Last October, the cadre leaders and party representatives of Pingdingshan city and county districts in Henan province received a SMS message.   This came from an unfamiliar telephone and it was an abusive message against current Pingdingshan city party secretary Deng Yongjian.

"The SMS message was a doggerel which heaped insults on the image of the city party secretary as well as his past political deeds.  The SMS message incited the party representatives not to vote for Deng as the city party secretary for a second term."  Said a public servant who had seen this SMS message.

This was more than one month before the seventh meeting of party representatives in Pingdingshan.  This meeting would be a transition meeting.   Just as in Pingdingshan, the transition process was occurring in other places around the country as well.  According to the plan by the party central, there would be transitions in party and government positions in 2006 and 2007 at the provincial, city, county and town levels.  This transition was described as the biggest one since the establishment of new China.  Obviously, the SMS sender was attempting to block Deng from repeating as city party secretary.

Very quickly, the sender of the SMS message was identified as Du Xin, the party secretary of the Xinhua district in Pingdingshan city.  This outcome stunned the political rulers of Pingdingshan city, as well as creating a public discussion topic for this industrial town famous for producing charcoal.

According to an informed source, Du Xin had been the district party secretary for two terms; while he aspired to join the city party standing committee or vice-mayor, he had been unsuccessful.  Ultimately, he made this very unwise move which would trigger off a big earthquake in officialdom.

It is unknown whether Deng Yongjian personally received this SMS message.  But even before the Pingdingshan officials received this SMS message, the senior officials at the Henan provincial party committee had already received this SMS message and paid attention.  Very quickly, this incident was reported to the National Ministry of Public Security.

According to information, Du Xin and his chauffeur bought a mobile phone card in Zhengzhou.  The driver sent the SMS message to the provincial party committee leaders and then he shut off his mobile phone and threw away the card.   But the same mobile phone was used to send SMS messages to the city and county officials and party representatives, and the relevant departments locked onto it and quickly solved the case.

The informed source believes that Du Xin wrote the contents of the SMS message.  Before taking a government job, Du was a teacher who was good at writing.  He had been the deputy principal at the Pingdingshan Party Committee School and then he became deputy secretary-general at the Pingdingshan city party committee.   In 1998, Du Xin was transferred to become the district party secretary of Xinhua district.

Xinhua district is in the heart of Pingdingshan.  The district was rich in coal mine resources, and it is also the center of political and cultural resources of the city.  The economic performance of the district has always been among the top three in the city.  According to a base-level official from the district, Xinhua grew steadily economically and was among the tops during the eight years under Du Xin.

At the same time, the Xinhua district leader is usually a likely candidate to become a city-level government leader.  Du Xin's predecessor was promoted to become first the leader of the Publicity Department and then as the executive city vice-mayor.  "But Du Xin stayed at his job for eight years without a promotion.  Although he received the status of 'deputy director', he had no city-level power.  Therefore, he was very anxious."

The various indications are that the transition this time was connected to organizational reform.  Some experts estimate that this transition could result in more than 100,000 officials being transferred away or even forced into retirement.  The scope was unprecedented.  Furthermore, the proportion of posts reserved for young officials was the highest in history.  Among the party committees at the provincial, city and county levels (excluding the minority ethnic areas), the party secretaries/deputy secretaries basically followed a rule of "one secretary, two deputies and 11 to 13 persons on the standing committees."

These new steps make the likelihood of promotion for officials such as Du Xin and others quite hopeless.  According to information, there was an intention to let Du Xin go to Zhoukou city (Henan city) to start afresh, but he was unwilling to accept this assignment because the place was not economically developed.

According to the analysis of informed persons, the name of Du Xin was submitted before the seventh meeting of the party representatives but he was not accepted as deputy mayor or into the city party standing committee.  Du Xin is already more than 50 years old, so he was quite irate with the principal leaders on the city party committee.  This ultimately led to the sending of the SMS messages.   The case was then defined as "writing SMS messages to threaten the provincial party committee leaders, and interfering and sabotaging the party committee elections."  The officials were perplexed by Du Xin's naive action because this did not seemed to be something that a veteran local deputy leader with many years of political experience would do.  According to informed persons, Du Xin seemed to be doing fine enough in the eyes of ordinary people.  However, a person with the Pingdingshan city party disciplinary committee said that the fall of Du Xin could actually be traced out.

The officials and party secretaries who received the SMS messages could have just laughed at the SMS message or kept it to gossip talk.  But during the transition period, the impact of the SMS messages was higher than at normal times.  Supposedly, the last sentence of the SMS message -- "Whoever votes for Deng Yongjian is a son of a bitch" -- angered certain party representatives who sought out Deng and told him: "Even if you won't do anything, we will get to the bottom of this!"  That was why the relevant departments quickly entered.

At first, Du Xin refused to admit that he had committed the deed.  But the fact was that he could not fend off the investigation.  Three days later, he folded totally and answered all the questions from the investigators.   According to informed sources, he would even wake up in the middle of his sleep to raise his hand to indicate that he had something to report.  Before each meal, he would sing the two songs <Oh, Party, dearest mother> and <Sing a folk song for the Party> first.

Du Xin revealed not just about the SMS messages, but he shockingly informed on the large numbers of officials within his district.  The Henan provincial procuratorate and the Henan provincial party disciplinary committee quickly organized teams to set up in Pingdingshan city.  A simple case of a SMS message to influence an election grew to be a mass corruption case involving many officials and huge sums of money.

According to information, the investigators found several hundred thousand RMB in cash as well as receipts for the purchase of six automobiles in the office of Du Xin.  The initial investigation showed that Du Xin was suspected of receiving bribes, taking graft and misappropriate public funds to the tune of 12 million RMB.  He listed more than 100 officials who have paid him bribes.  "He had a great memory.  He recalled all the bribes that took place over several years.   He could even say that such a person gave him a gift certificate at such a time," according to an informed source.

Another version was that when Du Xin was explaining the bribes, he just asked the investigators to give him a list of the cadre leaders in Xinhua district and he wrote out the amounts of the bribes next to the names of the involved officials.

These officials were then investigated.  The provincial procuratorate and the provincial party disciplinary committee set up office in Xinhua district and asked all the cadre leaders to examine themselves and come to the investigators to disclose their own problems.  At the same time, notices were posted at all the district government offices: "the notice said that if you disclose all your major problems clearly, there will not be any consequences; if you should conceal something, you will be dealt with severely," recalled a base-level cadre in Xinhua district.

The Xinhua district department of finance director was supposedly the first person named by Du Xin.  The popular saying was that he often delivered sacks of money to Du Xin.  This director told the investigators, "Du is the district leader.  Can I say no if he asked me for money?"

A leader who had just been transferred away from Xinhua district was asked to come back.  He told the investigators that Du had demanded an automobile from him, but he refused to do so.

According to information, all the leaders of the departments in Xinhua district were called in to explain their situations.  A worker at the Street Office Affairs said that their office leader has not come back to work and is still under investigation.  Certain village-level leaders were under the control of Du through the bribes.  When land was requisitioned from a village in Jiaodian town in Xinhua district, the villagers received only a small amount of money in compensation, because the village director seized most of the money and gave some to Du Xin.

In truth, during the term of Du Xin, the other officials were very critical of the hidden rules operating in this district.  A common version is that Du would offer a deputy department director position for 40,000 RMB and a full department director position for 60,000 RMB.  According to information, the initial investigator showed that 48 cadres had given Du Xin more than 50,000 RMB each.

One of the ways through which Du Xin gave jobs to the bribe-givers is to increase the number of cadres.  Jiaodian and Shizhuang are two towns in western Xinhua district.  Du designated 25 villages in these two towns, and created a Street Affairs Office for every five villages.  Thus, he created posts for a number of cadres.  According to information, the city had never approved this organizational system.  Presently, the five Street Affairs Offices only had sites with signs outside and the official stamp only says "preparatory team."

Over these years, Pingdingshan city has been undergoing urban development.  In the core area of Xinhua district, housing prices were hot.   After the fall of Du Xin, at least seven or eight real estate developers who had close dealings with Du Xin were summoned for interrogation.  Most of these real estate developers returned home seven or eight days later, but one recalcitrant businessman was detained forty to fifty days by the relevant departments.

The businessmen paid bribes to Du Xin in exchange for land.   Apart from giving large amounts of cash, they gave Audi cars or apartments.   One businessman explained that he did not give any bribes because the car was only on loan to Du Xin.

According to information, one elderly teacher gave 60,000 RMB to Du Xin in the hope that his daughter who had just graduated from a teacher's college can be assigned to the public school system.  Du Xin promised to handle the matter after the Chinese New Year, but he fell before this happened.

The Du Xin affair was undoubtedly an earthquake within officialdom in Xinhua district.  During the investigation, the entire political community in the district lived in anxiety.  One official said that this was a very typical sensationalistic incident -- the amount of bribes was huge, it dragged in a large number of officials and the detail of using SMS messages to abuse the leader provided the dramatic effect.

The district officials are quite glum over this affair.   One official said, "If everybody is giving Du money, then it is unrealistic for you to refuse alone."  The better officials are worried that this affair will cast a shadow on the promotion of every cadre in Xinhua district.  Presently, the Xinhua district party committee publicity materials describe the district as follows: it is the center of politics, economy and culture in the "city of eagles," it is the hub of human talents, knowledge, information, merchandise and capital in southwestern Henan province.  The east side is the commercial district through which money flows, the center is an ecological area for flora, the west side is the modernizing Pingdingshan Xincheng urban area.  Du Xin had been the lead official in this core administrative area inside Pingdingshan city for eight years.

Du Xin is not tall, he is fair-skinned and he wears a pair of spectacles.  He leaves the impression of being learned and proper.  He had been a music student.  He was a party secretary in a high school in Zhoukou city and entered officialdom by way of the Pingdingshan Party Committee School.

He wrote well, and he even wrote book reviews for a newspaper in his spare time.  In writing about <100 examples of important theory/practice>, he wrote that these examples are the realization of the spirit of the sixteenth meeting of the Communist Party of China, the concrete implementation of the spirit of the speech of Secretary General Hu Jintao and the requirements on cadre education insisted by comrade Zeng Qinghong.  Thus, the book offered an extraordinary platform for educating cadres in the new era and must therefore be read by the masses of cadres.

"He has certain capabilities and the results of Xinhua district are there fore everyone to observe," one official made this assessment.   For example, in 2005, the production value realized by Xinhua district was 1.453 billion RMB, which was a 23.4% increase over the previous year.  In 2003-2004, Du Xin's name was included among the national city/county district science and technology leaders.

Last June, Du Xin told the local media that the interests of the masses must be place in the number one position.  Du Xin said that he wanted to turn Xinhua district into the strong economic, cultural and leading district.

As district party secretary, Du's capabilities and flaws went hand in hand.  The people around him can observe his control of power.  On one occasion, he gave the district organizational team director a list of names with the directive to promote the cadres accordingly.  The various district mayors did not get along with him, and people were certain that one of them was ousted by  him.  A Xinhua district cadre recalled that then district mayor Liu Yujun said in front of Du: "I am not familiar with the work in the district.  People should accept Secretary Du's arrangements as correct."  The audience was confused as to whether the district mayor was expressing his dissatisfaction or brown-nosing up to Du Xin.  After Du Xin fell, Liu Yujun became the new party secretary in Xinhua district.

Like many similar cases of fallen officials, lifestyle problems can be discovered with Du Xin.  Supposedly, he told the investigators that he had improper sexual relationships with several females.  "He had six or seven lovers at various times.  He also said that he had sexually molested several dozen females," said an informed source.

According to information, Du Xin was twice married, with two daughters.  Two lovers bore two sons.  In recent years, Du Xin seldom went home.  When he went home, he often quarreled with his wife and the neighbors upstairs and downstairs could hear the sounds.  Neighbors also observed Du Xin running downstairs quickly downstairs to leave in his car with his wife chasing and wrestling with him.  His wife often looked depressed and listless.

Du's lover has been accused of being rude and abusive at work on account of her relationship with him.  One of his lovers is a Xinhua district official and even clashed with the case investigators.  His other lover was a deputy principal at a school and was transferred to work in the district government.  One tip was that a real estate developer gave an apartment to Du, who gave it to his lover to stay.

During his tenure as district party secretary, Du Xin enjoyed treatment as local deputy director.  His name often appeared in local media as "city leader and district party secretary Du Xin."  Yet, when his official career was stuck for eight years in the same position, it was easy to imagine the disappointment of the 50-year-old Du Xin.

Last August, Du Xin was still studying theory with Deng Yongjian and other city leaders.  The teaching material at the time was <Selected Works of Jiang Zemin>.  Nobody imagined that when Du Xin was unable to rise further up in the hierarchy of power, discontent against Deng Yongjian would ferment in his heart.

Incidents shaking up officialdom was not restricted to just Pingdingshan.  Shortly before Du Xin was investigated, officials in Pengshui county, Chongqing city, a thousand miles away were incensed by a certain SMS message.  Last August 15, Pengshui resident Qin Zhongfei wrote and distributed a short poem which hinted at three leaders in Pengshui county, including then county mayor Zhou Wei and county party secretary Lan Qinghua.  At the time, it was also transition time.  When mayor Zhou Wei learned about the contents of the SMS message, he asked the public security bureau to enter into an investigation.  Qin Zhongfei was detained 29 days on suspicion of libel.

Qin Zhongfei was different from Du Xin.  Qin was just a cadre on loan to the county department of education, not a district party secretary.   Qin had a simple motive in sending out the SMS message and that was for 'fun,' not to unleash his rage at not being promoted in officialdom.  Qin did not name the principals.  Qin Zhongfei was eventually released without any charges and received state compensation for his time under detention.  The Pengshui case was characterized as a wrongful case in which party leader illegally interfered with the judicial system.   But the incident did not seem to have affected the careers of the officials, as Pengshui party secretary Lan Qinghua was transferred to become deputy director of the Chongqing city Statistical Bureau.

Qin Zhongfei and his SMS message was so much less powerful than the people that he had crossed, so he gained public opinion sympathy right from the beginning.  Du Xin will have to pay a much higher price for his SMS message on account of his position in officialdom.  Any punishment of Du Xin by Pingdingshan will win the support of the people.  After all, Du Xin was a corrupt official, no matter the means by which he fell.

Last December, the seventh meeting of the Pingdingshan party representatives took place as scheduled.  At the full meeting, Deng Yongjian was elected as the new city party secretary and a member of the party standing committee.

In this acceptance speech, Deng Yongjian said that the new leadership class must show the way by being clean and disciplined, and have the the proper attitudes concerning power, position and accomplishments.  They must treat the relationships between power and responsibility, bitterness and happiness, gains and losses in the proper manner and they must never step across the live high-charged wire known as The Law.  Certain officials said that this speech was certainly purposeful.

At the full meeting of the Pingdingshan party disciplinary committee on February 8, city party secretary Deng Yongjian talked about the corruption problem among officials and said that "Du Xin is a typical case."  Deng then said: "Du Xin wants to go home and be a farmer on a salary as a local deputy director.  Is that possible?  He wants to go home to spend Chinese New Year.   He wants to hand in 10 million RMB and have all criminal liability removed.   Is that possible?"  In his speech, Deng said that the city must continued to punish and prevent corruption inside the system.

The year 2006 has been described as an eventful one for Xinhua district.  Early in the year, the newly appointed district leader Yu Ling was severely reprimanded by the party for approving the insertion of 105 persons into 31 enterprises on her own initiative at her previous post and she was dismissed from her position.  At the end of the year, Du Xin fell because he insulted the leaders and interfered with the city party committee election.

According to information, the authorities are troubled by the fact that so many officials are involved.  On this basis, the entire officialdom of Xinhua district would have to be purged, and that is not good for political stability.   Du Xin's case has not yet entered into the judicial phase.  All other officials are permitted to continue in their posts after stating their situations to the investigative team, except for one female official who has been arrested.  As for the future of these other officials, the superiors will probably set a threshold (such as no criminal prosecution for bribes under 60,000 RMB) and issue only a warning into the party record.  This is for the sake of the political and social stability of the Xinhua district.