GUANGZHOU, Oct. 11 (Xinhua) -- Authorities in south China's city of Guangzhou decided on Thursday to suspend an official from his post after initial investigations showed his family owned 21 houses, well above what his legitimate earnings would allow.
The number of homes associated with by Cai Bin, a senior urban management official of Panyu District, Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong Province, was almost the same as that claimed by muckrakers who brought the scandal to light in cyberspace recently, according to a statement issued by the Communist Party of China (CPC) discipline inspection committee of Panyu.
Cai concealed much of his real estate portfolio when submitting reports of personal effects as required, said the statement. He told authorities last year and this year that his family had only two houses. He denied the extent of his property ownership on Wednesday when reached by a Xinhua reporter.
Cai is the latest in a series of Chinese officials who have been targeted by the country's netizens and later investigated by disciplinary watchdogs over the past three years.
Just last month, Yang Dacai, a former senior work safety official in northwest China's Shaanxi Province, was sacked due to a corruption scandal exposed after photos were posted online showing Yang wearing at least 11 pricy wristwatches on different occasions.
In China today, cyberspace has become an effective tool for grassroots people to help fight government corruption, one of citizens' major complaints alongside a widening gap between rich and poor in the fast-developing country.
"The local authorities set up an investigation team shortly after Cai's case was exposed. The team started the probe on Wednesday," according to Guo Xuanyu, deputy head of the Panyu discipline inspection committee.
Of the 21 houses, 19 are registered under the name of his wife, Shi Liying, and his son. One is jointly owned by Cai and Shi and the other is under the name of Cai.
A real estate agency estimated that the total market value of the properties could be 40 million yuan (6.3 million U.S. dollars). Cai's monthly pay is around 10,000 yuan. The salary of his wife, a retired government employee, is lower.
"Given his normal income and high housing prices, it is rather difficult for people to believe the 21 houses were all bought legally," noted Guo.
On Thursday morning, the inspection authorities of Guangzhou used their official blog to announce the decision to suspend Cai and conduct further investigation.
In dealing with corruption tip-offs from netizens, the local government's speedy response has won applause.
"The action taken by the inspection authorities was quick and powerful," said a blogger.
While hailing the initial results of Cai's case, some netizens expressed expectation that local discipline inspection authorities can be more active in uncovering and dealing with corruption, instead of relying on exposition from the public.
"We encourage and expect the discipline inspection authorities of Guangzhou to be stronger," said another netizen.
Ahead of the 18th national congress of the CPC, scheduled for Nov. 8, the party's top disciplinary commission head vowed the country will never let corrupt officials escape punishment.
The anti-corruption bodies of the CPC have punished more than 660,000 officials guilty of disciplinary violations in the past five years, He Guoqiang, head of the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, said on Monday.
A series of major cases, including those involving former Chongqing Party chief Bo Xilai, former Railways Minister Liu Zhijun and former Shenzhen mayor Xu Zongheng, were relentlessly pursued, according to He.