HONG KONG • China's legislature has expelled 45 of its members in a vote-buying scandal that has snared a prominent businessman who is active in donating to United States universities, foundations and political campaigns.
Some of the lawmakers whose dismissals were announced on Tuesday, all from the economically struggling north-eastern province of Liaoning, had bribed their way into the National People's Congress (NPC) by buying votes, according to the official news agency Xinhua.
The nearly 3,000 members of the congress, which meets as a full body for less than two weeks each March, ratify laws and government programmes, usually with little drama. Members are mostly voted in by lower-ranking organisations, including provincial congresses.
Many of the expelled delegates are executives of private businesses or leaders of state-owned companies, rather than career politicians and military officers - who are also well represented on the body. They include former Ling- yuan Iron and Steel chairman Zhang Zhenyong; former Liaoning Tongda Huajin Chemicals chairman Liu Yunwen; and Shengjing Bank chairman Zhang Yukun, reported South China Morning Post.
Mr Zhang Dejiang, chairman of the NPC, told lawmakers on Tuesday that the bribery scandal, which resulted in the expulsion of almost half of the province's delegation, was unprecedented in the history of the People's Republic of China, Xinhua reported.
He vowed to show "no mercy". Often derided as a rubber-stamp legislature, the congress and its companion advisory body have, in recent years, become a club for some of China's wealthiest executives, keen to rub elbows with government officials.
NPC delegates are elected for five-year terms. The current term began in 2013. "People within the system can trade interests," Mr Zhang Ming, a political scientist at Renmin University in Beijing, said by telephone. "Whoever gets elected will have a pass to do so."
The vote-buying scandal in Liaoning has been brewing for at least five years, with hundreds of officials and lawmakers in its provincial bodies accused of engaging in the bribery, according to a report in Caixin, a well-regarded Chinese news magazine.
The report, which was posted online on Tuesday, has since been taken off the Internet.