Up to 60 officials under fire in villa scandal

GUANGZHOU – Tangxia township government officials in the city of Dongguan, Guangdong province, have recently come under heavy criticism after local media exposed the luxury villa homes they have built in recent years.

The officials are suspected of having abused their power to gain the right to land use at very low prices so they could have their luxury villas built.

Authorities in Dongguan confirmed in a statement to media on Tuesday that the disciplinary department started an investigation in April and is still working on the case.

Built on a hillside facing a big reservoir, the housing estate, called Hupan (lakeside) Mountain Villa, is dubbed “Tangxia’s Zhongnanhai” (the central leadership compound in downtown Beijing) by local residents.

Hupan Mountain Villa includes six seven-story commercial apartment houses, which were built in the late 1990s, and villas that were constructed around 2008, Southern Metropolis Daily reported on Tuesday.

Investigations have found that the two- to three-story villas on the housing estate are owned by 50 to 60 township-level Party and government officials from Tangxia.

In addition to the township’s Party secretary surnamed Ye, the town head surnamed Fang and their deputies, the villa owners include the town’s leading officials in charge of public security, housing management, urban planning, construction and of the town’s major government departments and organizations.

Hupan Mountain Villa is heavily guarded and is about five minutes’ drive from the township government headquarters.

According to an unidentified official in charge of land resources and housing management in the town, in 2008 the Tangxia government sold the land to the town’s major officials for construction of villas at a very low price of only 500 yuan ($77) a square meter.

“But commercial land nearby changed hands at an average of 15,000 yuan a sq m at that time,” said the official.

Villas are now being sold at an average of more than 20,000 yuan a sq m in Tangxia, according to local property agents.

“Many officials spent less than 1 million yuan on building a villa, including luxury interior decoration. And now each villa is valued at more than 10 million yuan by many property agents,” he added.

No Party or government officials from Tangxia commented on the case on Tuesday.

Liang Honglie, a white-collar worker in Guangzhou, said it has gone too far when officials, who call themselves “servants of the people”, live in luxury villas.

“The relevant department should fully investigate the case and reveal its findings,” he told China Daily. “Those who are found to have broken laws and regulations should be punished severely.”

Chen Qingde, a migrant worker from Hunan province, said officials should think more about improving workers’ conditions instead of abusing their power and position for personal gain.

“Many migrant workers are still living in shabby houses in Tangxia,” Chen said. “In some migrant workers’ dormitories, 10 to 20 people have to share a room that measures 20 to 30 sq m.”

China Daily

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