China corruption fight turns on 'naked officials' with family overseas

BEIJING (Reuters) - China has removed a senior “naked official”, one whose spouse and children have emigrated, from his post in the southern province of Guangdong, state media reported on Thursday, as the government’s anti-graft campaign turns its focus to a group it sees as a corruption risk.

Fang Xuan, deputy chief of the Guangzhou city Party Committee, will be taking early retirement, the official Xinhua news agency reported the Organization Department of Guangdong’s Communist Party committee as saying in a statement on Monday.

Authorities found Fang to be a naked official, one of the first to lose his position as China’s government begins a large-scale campaign to “stamp out” such officials, said Xinhua. It said a “slew of investigations” had been launched against other officials in Guangdong.

President Xi Jinping last year launched a crackdown on pervasive corruption over concern about public resentment towards China’s stability-obsessed ruling Communist Party. But the drive is also seen as a tool to remove Xi’s opponents and replace them with his allies.

Naked officials will not be considered for promotion, state media reported in January, as they are viewed as flight risks whose ability to escape overseas could make them more inclined to engage in acts of corruption.

Xinhua said naked officials were a serious problem in the province of Guangdong, which borders Hong Kong.

Many officials have been taking advantage of a Hong Kong investment scheme to squirrel away more than $1 million each, which includes buying ‘residency’ in faraway African nations, since the scheme is not open to mainland Chinese residents.

Reporting by Paul Carsten; Editing by Ron Popeski