What a life!

Official’s journal of misdeeds

What a life!

Most corrupt officials go to great lengths to cover their tracks. Han Feng, however, wrote a diary that provided people in China with a first-hand account of his misdemeanours.

The diary of the 53 year-old official at the Guangxi Tobacco Monopoly Bureau (a government-run tobacco entity) became an instant hit among netizens when it appeared online in February. It contains explicit entries recording Han’s sexual dalliances and bribe-taking.

For instance, in the 140 entries between September 2007 and January 2008, Han lists details of his sexual encounters with at least five of his female subordinates and colleagues. He noted at the end of 2007 that had had been ‘busy’ with women that year: “Womanising is on the right track. It’s been a lucky year with women. I need to pay attention to my health with so many sex partners.”

The diary of the Guangxi official also revealed much about his gregarious lifestyle. Han attended banquets and got drunk at least five times per week, usually with local government officials, police and directors of tobacco companies.

January 15, 2008 seems like a typical day: “Drank red wine with Dong Wen and Li Xianggui in the morning. Wu Changzhou came over at lunch to drink white wine. Drank a lot. Returned to Nanning after 2pm. Got my stuff and returned to Laibin. Ate dinner with the marketing people. Went to sing karaoke. Drank a lot more.”

At other times, Han appears to have accepted bribes. In one entry, he records receiving two bottles of Chinese moutai spirits and Rmb50,000 ($7,323). On September 16 that year he wrote: “I deposited Rmb30,000 and took Rmb20,000 home.”

According to the state-run news agency Xinhua, Han has now been sacked from his job and arrested. He is accused of taking bribes and accepting the gift of an apartment.

Han’s case – dubbed ‘Diarygate’ by the Chinese media – marks the latest instance of a party official being forced to step down after allegations of excess appeared on the internet.

Readers of WiC will remember Zhou Jiugeng, a housing official in the eastern city of Nanjing who was jailed for 11 years after internet users posted photos of him smoking luxury cigarettes and wearing a $14,600 Vacheron Constantin watch (see WiC35). All well beyond his official pay scale.

But, rather surprisingly, Han has some sympathisers. One of them is China’s top blogger and pop icon Han Han (see here). Han Han (not a relative) said the Guangxi official was “actually a good cadre” compared to most party officials – because he did not squander public money on prostitutes and mistresses. Plus the bribes he received were relatively small fry compared to others who’ve been arrested, Han Han notes.

“There are a lot more wretches at his level, far dirtier than he is. I strongly suggest to netizens letting this cadre go, and his mistresses too, they are no more than minor shrimps,” Han Han wrote in his blog.

Critics say Han Han’s comments only point to how low Chinese people’s expectations of bureaucrats have sunk. Beijing has launched campaign after campaign against official corruption, yet little progress seems to be made, particularly at the local level.

In a draft of the government’s annual work report delivered last week, Premier Wen Jiabao had more tough words about better regulating “grey” incomes – a euphemism for any earnings that are not easily taxed, such as meals, gifts or cash bonuses. However, reference to the proposal was removed from the final draft report approved by the government on Sunday because lawmakers could not agree on what constitutes “grey” income…

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