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    Sichuan Cadre Relatives Suspected of Welfare Fraud

    Recipients did not qualify for low-income allowances.

    Local authorities in Sichuan province, southwestern China, on Monday confirmed online rumors that relatives of government officials had received allowances for low-income families they did not qualify for, Sixth Tone’s sister publication The Paper reported.

    On Oct. 4 an anonymous net user uploaded photos of a list of low-income allowance recipients in Jincheng Township, in Sichuan’s northeast. The photos show that for the third quarter of 2016, 11 of the 46 people given an allowance were relatives of village officials. One of the recipients was no longer living.

    A verified government account replied to the post on Monday saying that in July the list had been cleared of people not qualified to receive the allowances, which included some relatives of officials. The reply did say that some relatives qualified as low-income families.

    The list included the mother, wife, and wife’s sister-in-law of one cadre, Wei Zhiyu, the previous deputy secretary of Jincheng Township’s discipline inspection commission, the party’s corruption watchdog. Wei told Sixth Tone that the government had given the allowances to his relatives as compensation for him working overtime. He said that since the start of the national anti-graft campaign in 2012, it has become difficult for cadres to get paid for overtime.

    The Chinese government started giving allowances to people with low incomes in 1997. Eligibility is based on household income, property, and whether the family is registered in a rural or urban area. In Langzhong, the city that administers Jincheng County, residents can receive the allowance if their household income is less than 2,200 yuan ($330) per person. Urban and rural residents can receive up to 360 and 183 yuan per month, respectively.

    Wei said that with his monthly salary of 3,000 yuan, his family is not wealthy, and that his wife, who has been unemployed for 17 years, is in bad health. He added that he didn’t think his relatives continued to receive the low-income allowance after he and his family left Jincheng in June and relocated to another township 30 kilometers away — although he wasn’t sure and hadn’t checked.

    Xiong Wansheng, head of the Chinese urbanization development research center at East China University of Science and Technology, told Sixth Tone that it’s common in rural area for people to take advantage of the allowance while the most vulnerable groups are neglected.

    The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in 2013 conducted a survey in five provinces and concluded that 60 percent of the families that received allowances did not qualify. On the other hand, nearly 80 percent of families that did qualify did not receive the allowance.

    The Chinese government started a campaign to purge unqualified families from the ranks of allowance recipients in 2014. China Times, a newspaper run by the China Disabled Persons’ Federation, in 2015 reported that 4 million people had had their allowances cancelled, and that of those 4 million, 257,000 had received the subsidies through their personal connections, or “by mistake.”

    “We started cleaning up the lists of low-income welfare families in 2014, but the work in Jincheng was not carried out well,” Gou Xiaoping, deputy head of the low-income department of the Langzhong municipal government, told Sixth Tone. He added that they set up a team on Tuesday to look into whether those receiving low-income allowances in the city actually qualify.

    Gou added that the allowance should be paid back by the undeserving recipients, who would also be fined up to triple the amount. “We have to make sure that families who should receive an allowance receive it, and that those who shouldn’t are removed,” Gou said.

    (Header image: Three children sit in their house in Yuncheng, Shanxi province, May 31, 2015. VCG)