China media: Housing law anger

Property-related corruption cases have been in the spotlight recently Property-related corruption cases have been in the spotlight recently

Media outlets criticise controversial measures taken by authorities in several cities to protect the privacy of homeowners amid concerns that the new rules could shield the ill-gotten assets of corrupt officials.

Authorities in Guangzhou in Guangdong and Yancheng in Jiangsu have introduced rules stipulating that a homeowner's consent must be obtained before anyone can run searches on their property.

In Zhangzhou in Fujian, government staff who make property ownership information public may face criminal charges.

"Rather than protecting privacy, many outraged netizens suspect the new regulations will merely help to hide illegal wealth amassed by corrupt officials," Hong Kong's South China Morning Post reports.

China has been hit by a series of housing scandals involving officials and bankers using multiple identities to amass property.

Zhou Weisi, a Shenzhen official nicknamed "House Uncle", was arrested earlier this month for alleged bribery and amassing 2bn yuan in assets, including villas and luxury cars, Beijing Times reports.

Last month, Gong Aiai, a former bank executive known as "House Sister", was charged with allegedly using multiple identities to buy 41 properties in Beijing.

Global Times backs the new privacy measures but notes the Chinese public's fierce aversion to corruption.

"These new regulations have clashed with public anger of 'House Uncle and House Sister' and it is hardly surprising that they have brought negative feelings that are at odds with the policy's objectives," the Global Times comments.

China Youth Daily says that if the authorities immediately made public the alleged assets of "House Uncle" and other officials, internet users would feel less inclined to conduct online witch-hunts known as "human flesh engine searches".

"The deliberate evasiveness of government departments towards the public's keen desire to combat corruption and their deaf ear towards public demands for 'public information on officials' property' have resulted in public fears that the 'government is shielding corrupt elements'," China Youth Daily adds.

Beijing Institute of Technology Professor Hu Xingdou tells Hong Kong's Oriental Daily News that "interest groups" are doing everything possible to cover up corruption and stop authorities "beating tigers" or going after high-ranking officials.

Prof Hu calls the move a "step backwards" and "open resistance against the central government's anti-corruption initiatives".

"The best solution to resolve this conflict is of course to promote a system for making government officials' property public," The Beijing News comments.

People's Daily says public concerns can be allayed by stricter checks on civil servants "owning property from unknown sources".

Match-fixing

Meanwhile, China's biggest sports corruption crackdown has ended after 33 people including players, referees and officials were banned from football for life and 12 football clubs fined for alleged match-fixing, The Beijing News reports.

Shanghai Shenhua have been stripped of their 2003 league title. It is among the 12 clubs fined for alleged match-fixing and to have six points deducted from next season's campaign.

But internet users and sports commentators criticize the penalties as being "too soft", People's Daily and China Youth Daily report.

"I personally think the punishment is not enough. It is regretful that no clubs were relegated this time," Xu Jiren, sports head of Xinhua News Agency, is quoted by China Daily as saying.

Turning to international news, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman denies a Reuters news agency report that North Korea told China that it is prepared to carry out more nuclear tests, Xinhua reports.

Global Times says Chinese government ships ignored Japanese coast guard warnings when patrolling 1km from disputed islands called Diaoyu in China and Senkaku in Japan yesterday. Japan protested to the Chinese ambassador over the incident.

Xinhua and the People's Daily Overseas Edition condemn authorities in Okinawa for including the disputed islands in Japan's application for Unesco World Natural Heritage status for the Amami and Ryukyu Islands.

People's Daily, Global Times and Liberation Daily accuse Indian and Western media of scaremongering about a "China threat" after Pakistan officially handed over the operations of Gwadar Port to a Chinese enterprise yesterday.

'Chat chick'

Back in China, many internet users complain of enjoying no paid leave despite Xinhua's reminder that the public are entitled to 115 days off a year from weekends and statutory holidays, roughly one-third of a year.

China Daily says many private sector staff only get limited paid leave from work and some miss out on paid leave altogether.

Despite bumper harvests in recent years, officials and experts warn that China's grain security still faces potential risks as over 35m metric tonnes of grain are wasted each year from poor storage and transportation, Global Times and China Daily report.

A local environment official tells China Daily that nitrogen-containing particles in Beijing's air similar to toxic smog in London and Los Angeles in the 1950s are within a "normal range" and should not set off alarm bells.

However, one think-tank expert warns New Express of worsening air pollution caused by higher levels of nitrogen-containing compounds in the southern Pearl River Delta compared to northern or eastern coastal regions.

Southern Metropolis Daily says officials must take action to clean up a polluted local river in Rui'an in Zhejiang province after entrepreneur Jin Zengmin offered 200,000 yuan (32,000 dollars) to any environment official willing to swim in the river for more than 20 minutes.

And finally, an auto-chatting "chick" on social networking website Renren is the latest fad to trigger concerns about introversion and online addiction among youngsters, Guangzhou Daily reports.

"Anyone can post a message to which the 'chick' will respond with its smart while mischievous replies... It understands the latest news events, hot words and even dirty jokes, which it actually learns from online followers," says Xinhua.

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