Front Page of the Day
Posted by Eric Mu on Wednesday, April 23, 2008 at 4:43 PM
In Fuyang, Anhui Province, there's a district government building that's called the "White House" by locals, although it resembles the US Capitol more than the chief executive's residence.
The building appeared in the media for the first time in 2007, when it was criticized as being too extravagant for an economically-depressed city like Fuyang. The controversial building is back in the spotlight again, this time because of the death of the original whistle-blower, Li Guofu.
Today's Qilu Evening News reported the event on its front page, in a small photo at the bottom. The report inside is taken from China Youth Daily's investigation.
Yingquan District party secretary Zhang Zhi'an and Li Guofu were unlikely enemies to begin with. They were both government officials. Li was subordinate to Zhang and a good friend of Zhang's father. After Zhang's appointment as the leader of the district in 1997, Li was promoted to be director of a local "financial zone," and headed up a local real estate company thanks to their good personal relationship.
However, their friendship began to shows cracks in 2004, when Li felt he was marginalized by Zhang's relatives. In 2007, after Zhang's pet project, the 30-million-yuan "White House," was exposed by the media, Zhang suspected it was Li that reported him. Li lost his job not long after, and the conflict between the two was an open secret among Fuyang officials.
Li went to Beijing and made several reports to the central government regarding Zhang's misuse of his office, which included illegal expropriation of land and embezzlement of public funds. On August 26, 2007, when Li returned from Beijing, he was arrested by the Fuyang Anti-Corruption Bureau. He was found guilty on multiple charges, including graft and accepting bribes, and subsequently was jailed in a Fuyang prison.
A letter that Li wrote to Zhang on December 27, 2007, expressed his regret for his actions. He also asked for Zhang's forgiveness and promised that he would never do anything against him again. But it is not clear under what conditions the letter was written. Li was a patient at the prison hospital and had been suffering from various chronic diseases. Some of his children are still working in the local government under Zhang.
Li was found dead on the morning of the March 13, 2008, hours before he was supposed to be visited by his lawyer. The police report said that Li hanged himself with a strip of cloth and determined that it was a suicide. However, there are a few areas of suspicion: Li was found with his mouth closed (unusual for a hanging), and there were reportedly extensive bruises on his body. Li's family refused to accept the police conclusion.
District Party Secretary Zhang Zhi'an, sitting in his copy of the US Capitol, may feel like he's number one, but if he cannot survive this gathering storm, his days in that grand building may be numbered.
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