China's southern Hengyang city has dismissed most members of its legislature after they were found to have taken millions of dollars in bribes in a massive election fraud.
According to the report from Hunan Daily published on December 28, 3013, 518 Hengyang lawmakers and 68 staff members were found to have accepted bribes, and 512 lawmakers were dismissed. Provincial authorities disqualified 56 delegates who were found to have paid more than 18 million US dollars in bribes to gain entry to the provincial body.
According to Qiao Mu, director of the Center for International Communication Studies at Beijing Foreign Studies University, becoming a member of the congress opens up a network for contact with politicians and business people. The cash-for-vote problem has become more widespread since the party introduced competitive elections at the local level a few years ago.
State media Xinhua wrote:
Thorough investigations and severe punishment must be done to maintain the party's reverence and the people's trust in the country's fundamental political system.
China Daily explained the significance of authorities’ reaction:
Bribery scandal in Hengyang shows strengthened efforts to build a clean and transparent election system are necessary.
The bribery scandal has many web users asking, is the bribery limited to Hengyang alone?
Lawyer Huang Leping wondered [zh]:
Where does the money come from? How much benefit does one receive after the election? Hengyang's bribery scandal has exposed the problems at the root of the existing electoral system, two sources support the elections: one is money, one is power.
Journalist Shi Shusi raised a few questions:
Hunan did cover the Hengyang bribery scandal this time, which is worth applauding, it serves as an alarm for the election throughout the NPC. However, the fundamental question is: What's the main source of the bribery? How can it be effectively prevented from happening in the future? How can an open and fair election be guaranteed?
TV host Zhang Liyuan echoed:
This is by no means an individual bribery case, if you do not give people the real right to vote, elections are just a show performed by the officials. Regulating a democratic electoral system is the key, it's not just about punishing a few bribery cadres.
User “Hong Jingtian” thought the election itself is far from ordinary people's lives:
In fact, the Hunan bribery case is just the tip of the iceberg. Look at nationwide village elections, bribery is a common phenomenon. For ordinary people, whoever becomes the official doesn't make any difference, whoever gives them money will get the vote. After all, the people elected are all the same.
According to social media, the Hengyang bribery scandal was not a secret. Earlier this year, the case was circulated among some investigative journalists in China, but they weren't able to publish due to pressure and censorship. Doctor Liu Yun from the Haikou College of Economics wrote:
In addition to exposing the drawbacks of the electoral system, it's worth noting that such a large-scale bribery case was only able to be identified and exposed with the highest level of direct intervention from the central government.