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Undercover spies finger the corrupt

THE disciplinary department of a small county in eastern China's Jiangsu Province is using 68 civilians as its "secret agents" to spy on off-duty officials.

The civilians were given code numbers and told to watch officials in Jiang su's Sihong County and report to Sihong's disciplinary authority any misdeeds or wrongdoings they discovered, including taking or offering bribes, traveling or enjoying banquets at public expense, using government vehicles for private use, gambling or hosting luxurious weddings, funerals or birthday parties where they accepted red envelopes - even drinking on work days, The Beijing News reported yesterday.

The spies have been active for more than six months, since hundreds applied for the positions last July.

A 52-year-old teacher is one of the undercover troops. Also a member of the local People's Congress, he told the newspaper the job offered him an opportunity to criticize officials without fear of retaliation.

The man, wearing sunglasses and a hat, refused to disclose any details of his work to the newspaper.

"Our existence may urge officials to restrain themselves and avoid corruption," said the agent.

None of the spies is paid for the work, the paper said.

The positions were advertised on TV on July 16 in Sihong. They called for 60 special inspectors to monitor officials. More than 300 people applied for the posts within a week. Many of them said they didn't care about payment.

A former entrepreneur joined the team because he was dissatisfied with the local business watchdog.

"It took a very long time to get business approval," he said. "They won't do anything for you if you don't bribe them. Some officials demanded businesses give them all kinds of lavish treats based on flimsy excuses, but no one dared to report them."

Several officials have been punished or are currently under investigation after being fingered by the agents, including a vehicle management official who took red envelopes at his child's party.

In February alone, local disciplinary authorities have filed 12 investigations and referred several of them to police.


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