Serving more than tea

By The Beijing News – Global Times Source:Global Times Published: 2015-7-7 21:38:01

Over 20 Fujian officials allegedly trapped in teahouse sex tape scandal

A woman performs a tea ceremony at a Taoist temple in Shangrao, Jiangxi Province on May 22. Photo: CFP

The disciplinary watchdog in Fuzhou, East China's Fujian Province, announced a few weeks ago that three local officials have been expelled from the Communist Party of China (CPC) and removed from their positions for severely violating "socialist morality."

Although the officials were not high-profile " tigers," or corrupt senior officials, the case has drawn public attention after the media revealed that they were all linked to a scandal involving blackmail and teahouse sex tapes, which may implicate more than 20 officials.

According to The Beijing News on July 1, a Fujian tea shop owner hired a young woman to seduce officials and then blackmail them using sex tapes and compromising pictures. The case was later made public by one of the officials who was caught in the honey trap but refused to pay up. 

Honey trap

On May 29, Fuzhou's CPC discipline inspection commission announced that several officials would face punishment for misbehavior, including Lin Lunjian, the chairman of Liangjiang county's political advisory body; Chen Baifan, an official with Fuzhou's market supervision management bureau; and Lin Zhong, a deputy mayor of Changle, a city administered by Fuzhou.

An anonymous official from the city government told The Beijing News that the three officials were all involved in the sex tape scandal but did not know about each other before the case was revealed. Moreover, they had no idea that the young seductress had been sleeping with other people, the official said.

According to various sources close to the case, gossip about the sex tape scandal has spread among local officials since February.

The Beijing News reported that the woman who did the dirty work is in her 20s and performed tea ceremonies with the officials in a teahouse owned by a businessman from a southern part of the province.

The businessman asked officials to visit the teahouse, where the woman gave her performance and began to develop a close relationship with the visitors. When the officials, who are mostly in their 50s, began to trust the woman, she seduced them. After they had sex, the woman would blackmail each official for at least 200,000 yuan ($32,220) using sex tapes that were secretly shot with pinhole cameras in a hotel room. The woman also threatened to tell the local disciplinary watchdog about their indiscretions if the officials refused to pay up, The Beijing News reported.
The scandal is reminiscent of the case of Lei Zhengfu, former Party chief of the Beibei district of Chongqing. In that case, 21 department-level and bureau-level officials, including Lei, were sacked after sex-tape extortion which mainly targeted officials. Lei was jailed for 13 years, and the six members of the blackmail gang received jail terms ranging from 18 months to 10 years in June 2013.

"Sixteen officials involved in the case are at the division-level while six more are at the higher levels. The total number has surpassed Lei's case," an anonymous professor from the Fuzhou-based Fujian Academy of Governance told The Beijing News. The professor claimed that the woman and the alleged ringleader were detained in October 2014 and are now in custody. All of the officials have been transferred to the city and provincial disciplinary watchdogs.

However, The Beijing News was not able to confirm the number of officials under investigation.

While there are lots of questions that remain unanswered in the case, many have asked why such cases have been common in the past years.

One reason is likely that officials are especially vulnerable to this kind of extortion, as if these sexual escapades are discovered by the disciplinary watchdogs, their official career is effectively over.

An article in the Beijing Youth Daily in November 2014 blamed the tendency of officials to abuse their power. It noted that in most extortion cases, many officials will intercede with the police on the behalf of the criminals as they don't want their scandals be exposed in the investigation. Other officials prefer to pay the hush money. The cover-up attempts make it relatively low-risk for the extortionist to continue their hunt for more victims, the newspaper added. 

Disappearing whistle-blower

The alleged extortion was reported to police by a division-level official in the city's supply and marketing cooperative, surnamed Yang, The Beijing News reported.

When Yang was blackmailed by the woman, he refused to pay the hush money, saying he was already divorced and the scandal would not hurt him too badly, an official from the Fujian Provincial judicial authorities told The Beijing News. Yang also questioned the owner of the teahouse as to why he chose to target him.

The owner insisted that he knew nothing about the blackmail and attempted to persuade Yang to pay the hush money as soon as possible in order to avoid trouble.

Yang, who felt disappointed with the owner, decided to report the extortion to the police as he was concerned that the owner would give the scandalous tape to local disciplinary watchdog, according to the senior official.

However, the case was more complicated than Yang had expected. Yang was astonished when police showed him a sex tape featuring the woman and other officials.

Yang was removed from his position as a rural cooperative organization's division head by the Fuzhou city government on April 30. But no reasons for the personnel change have been given by the authorities. It is also unknown why the local disciplinary watchdog has yet to announce any details about Yang's situation or any investigation into him.

Since Yang was removed from his position, he has fallen out of contact with his former employers and has not replied to text messages sent by his former colleagues.

Staff members from the supply and marketing cooperative told The Beijing News that Yang has been offered early retirement since his removal but "no one knows where he is," a staff member said.

"He just vanished." 

No only the details of the whistle-blower's situation, but also the identity of the woman and the teahouse owner remain unknown to the public, though eight months have passed since the case was uncovered.

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