According an exclusive report by Hong Kong’s Ming Pao on May 7, a few days before the fourth anniversary of Wenchuan Earthquake, Shehong County cheated the central government out of more than 100 million yuan ($16,000,000) of reconstruction funds by overstating the destruction caused by the earthquake.
Representatives of more than 1,000 villagers visited government agencies at higher levels to report the corruption over 20 times in 3 years but were frequently condemned and persecuted. Some of them have even been sent to prison. The government has only detained a village-level cadre for the irregularities but turned blind eyes to all those involved at higher levels.
Shehong County suffered only slight damages in the earthquake in 2008. For example, no house collapsed in Mingxing Town, but villagers showed a copy of the document of the town’s civil affairs department that states 192 houses collapsed. Dayu Town, another town in the county, reported the collapse of 275 houses, but in fact only a few houses were destroyed.
According to the “Earthquake Intensity Map” published by China Earthquake Administration, the county 260 km away from the epicenter is one of the areas in Suining City, Sichuan Province that suffered the slightest damages. In the “Findings of the Assessment of the Scope of Wenchuan Earthquake Disaster” issued by the Ministry of Civil Affairs, Shehong County was listed among 186 counties and cities designated as “ordinary disaster areas”. It is neither a “serious disaster area” nor an “extremely serious disaster area”.
However, the Bureau of Civil Affairs of Shuning City alleged in its report that the county was “one of the 50 ‘serious disaster areas’ in the province” with 129,284 non-governmental houses destroyed.
In order to stop villagers’ continuous visits to Beijing to report the irregularities, recently Shehong County Government has suddenly offered villagers 10,000 yuan ($1,590) per houshold to silent them, but was rejected by indignant villagers.
Ming Pao reporter phoned Li Ren, Party secretary of Mingxing Town to inquire about the corruption accusation, but Li refused to reply and hung up. At Ming Pao’s inquiry by phone and fax, staff of the county government said they would pass the questions to Li Ren and Magistrate Zhou Xin, but so far no reply has been received. On the other hand, the Sichuan Provincial Department of Civil Affairs has never replied the paper’s emails on the issue.