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China Party Newspaper Backs Restrictions on Property Disclosure

Feb. 20 (Bloomberg) -- The Communist Party’s official newspaper ran a commentary saying China must restrict access to property records, addressing demands for more disclosure amid allegations that public servants amassed real estate illegally.

Real estate holdings are a “personal affair,” the People’s Daily said in the front-page commentary yesterday. It also said China should impose stricter requirements for public officials to register their properties and anti-corruption officials should work harder at exposing public servants’ hidden assets.

The commentary follows revelations in recent weeks that a provincial bank employee and a policeman used fake identity documents to buy properties. China has begun a new anti- corruption campaign, warning that official malfeasance risks weakening the Communist Party’s grip on power.

“Asset information is a personal affair,” said the commentary, written by Fan Zhengwei, whose title wasn’t given. “We can’t write a person’s name, and go look at that person’s bank deposits as we please. Similarly, for personal property information you also should have mandatory protection.”

The deputy director of a bank in Shaanxi Province, Gong Aiai, was detained earlier this month over allegations she illegally accumulated more than 20 properties, the Xinhua News Agency reported. Gong has become known as “house sister,” it said. In Guangdong Province, discipline authorities said Zhao Haibin, a policeman in the city of Lufeng, used a fake identity card to invest in property, Xinhua reported separately.

Restrict Access

Amid such cases, Chinese provinces have sought to restrict access to property information. The city of Zhangzhou in Fujian Province issued new rules prohibiting people from searching by name for property information, according to a Feb. 16 notice on the city government website.

The eastern city of Yancheng introduced a rule clarifying who can access property information, restricting it to police and other officials, according to a Jan. 30 notice on its government website. The measure was introduced after residents expressed concern about the disclosure of personal property information, it said.

“You should protect the assets of ordinary people,” Liu Shanying, a political scientist at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said in a telephone interview. “For public officials, government officials their housing information should be public, you should be able to search for it.”

The government needs to implement policies that instill public trust in its anti-corruption campaign, an unsigned commentary in the state-run Global Times newspaper said yesterday. Asset disclosure by government officials is unlikely this year because the number involved is so high, Liu said.

“The problem is government departments are avoiding the people’s enthusiastic yearning for anti-corruption,” a commentary by Cao Lin in the China Youth Daily newspaper said yesterday. “They are not listening to the public’s requests for information on official properties, which makes the public worry that the government is shielding corrupt individuals.”

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