Curbs on asset inquiries draw fire
Updated: 2013-02-20 03:08
By XU WEI (China Daily)
Authorities in several cities have created regulations that prohibit real-name inquiries of residents' real estate assets, a move that worries experts and Internet users over possible adverse effects of anti-corruption efforts at the grassroots level.
A regulation issued on Saturday by the real estate asset registration authority in Zhangzhou, Fujian province, prohibited real-name inquiries of real estate information and would allow access only to the owner of the assets or prosecutors, police, courts, disciplinary watchdogs or securities regulators.
A similar regulation issued by the city government of Yancheng, Jiangsu province, which came into force on Jan 1, also prohibits inquiries of real estate assets of residents.
The regulation was issued after "informal leakage of real estate asset information of residents in some areas, which aroused the worries of some residents", said a statement posted on the city government's website.
The regulation also strictly prohibits staff of government departments from acting beyond their authority to conduct inquiries or leaking real estate asset information of residents to others.
The move came after several scandals involving officials owing a large number of homes were exposed on the Internet.
Gong Aiai, vice-president of Shenmu Rural Commercial Bank in Shaanxi province, was given the nickname "House Sister" after a micro-blogger exposed in January that she owns 20 homes worth about 1 billion yuan ($160 million), some of which were purchased using fake identities. She was detained by police earlier this month on suspicion of forging official documents and seals.
Zhai Zhenfeng, director of the housing administration bureau in Erqi district of Zhengzhou, capital of Henan province, was arrested on suspicion of corruption after a whistle-blower reported his family owned 31 apartments.
Real-name inquiries of residents' real estate assets have never been available in Beijing, according to the Beijing Commission of Housing and Urban-Rural Development.
An unidentified official with the authority told Beijing News on Tuesday that the authority never provided services for real-name inquiries of residents' real estate information because it goes against a 2008 regulation by the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development on real estate assets registration.
The official also denied reports that the commission issued disciplinary measures that banned such inquiries by government staff.
Even so, the measures by the authorities in the two cities met criticism from some Internet users, who believed the move was intended to curb anti-corruption efforts at the grassroots level.
More than 840,000 Internet users participated in the discussions at several Internet news portals and micro blog websites, according to news website people.com.cn.
"The fact that those measures were carried out at a time when officials' corruption problems with assets were exposed by whistle-blowers would surely draw suspicion that they were intended to protect more officials from being exposed," said Si Weijiang, an attorney for DeBund Law Offices in Shanghai.
Si said the number of assets owned by residents should be classified as private.
Zhu Lijia, a public administration expert at the Chinese Academy of Governance, said the measures carried out by the authorities reflected the "uncooperative" attitude from local authorities on anti-corruption efforts at the grassroots level.
"The public may not have the right to know the assets of residents, but they should have the right to know the assets of officials. The new measures would certainly make it more difficult for the public to supervise officials," he said.
Zhu said he believes real estate assets are not part of residents' privacy rights as they fall under the scope of personal credit information, and the public should have access to the information when necessary.
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