BEIJING (AP) — A scandal involving Chinese city officials having sex with women hired by developers who secretly videotaped the trysts to extort construction deals broadened Friday with state media announcing 10 more officials fired.
The first, high-profile case broke in November when video clips went viral online of a 50-something official, Lei Zhengfu, in the southwestern city of Chongqing in the throes of passion. Images of his jowly, pop-eyed face became targets of derision and disgust over government corruption.
Lei was fired as Communist Party chief of a Chongqing district. State media said Friday that 10 more district- and county-level officials in the city’s government, party departments and state-owned enterprises who appeared in additional videos have been fired.
The expanding scandal comes as China’s newly installed leadership has vowed to crack down on rampant official corruption that threatens the party’s legitimacy. Even as China’s new Communist Party chief Xi Jinping has repeatedly pledged to strike hard against graft, authorities have been faced with a steady stream of bribery cases and other malfeasance.
In recent weeks, Chinese audiences have been riveted by revelations that some officials have amassed multiple properties using duplicate or fake identities. Soaring real estate prices have pushed home ownership out of reach for many Chinese, so such scandals are especially infuriating to the public.
Zhu Ruifeng, the former journalist who released the first video, said at the time that the woman, whose face is not visible in the screen grabs, was hired by a construction company to sleep with Lei in return for construction contracts. The company later tried to use the tape to extort more business from Lei.
Citing the city’s anti-corruption committee, the state-run Xinhua News agency described the developers behind the extortion as a “criminal ring” and said the company had “hired women to seduce local officials, covertly filmed their sexual acts and used the videos as tools of extortion.”