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Reprisals promised over homes scandal

A CITY government in Zhejiang Province has pledged to punish anyone illegally involved in a housing scandal in which officials bought relocation apartments cheaply.

In a statement issued by the city government of Wenzhou, the authority said the sales of 143 apartments from 2004 to 2005 to government officials by the city's Old House Renovation Headquarters were conducted without permission.

Appropriate punishments for those responsible are being discussed, the city government said.

The houses were built as resettlement homes for people whose homes had been demolished for urban construction. The prices of these apartments are usually much lower than those on the real estate market.

The allegations came after a post on a Wenzhou bulletin board that listed the names of officials who had allegedly bought the apartments.

The online list claimed 49 staff from the renovation headquarters and 94 from "related government departments" had bought 143 apartments.

The post included a notice submitted to the city government from the headquarters saying that home sales to government officials were meant to ease financial shortages in the construction of the resettlement homes.

The headquarters were set up in 1992 and have been responsible for the construction of resettlement homes as well as green-space planning and road construction in the old areas of the city.

Several officials named on the list confirmed to the Hangzhou-based Today Morning Express that they had purchased the apartments. But they insisted the prices they paid were about the same as the market price.

One bought a house for 8,000 yuan (US$1,169) per square meter. The price has now doubled, the report said.


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