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Hundreds of Chinese lawmakers quit over fraud scandal

More than 500 lawmakers have resigned and over 50 legislators sacked in a mass electoral bribery case, according to state media. The scandal occurred in the southern province of Hunan.

The 512 municipal officials resigned, were disqualified or dismissed after it was found they had taken bribes from 56 members of the provincial assembly to elect them to their posts.

State television channel CCTV

said on Twitter on Saturday

that local officials had dismissed the 56 representatives of the 763-member Hunan People's Congress, after they were "elected by bribery."

It added later that an initial investigation revealed the total amount of the bribes was more than 110 million yuan (13.2 million euros, $18.1 million). The Xinhua news agency said the money was used to swing the results of elections.

"The number of people involved in the Henyang election case are many, the amount of money is large, the substance serious, the effect pernicious; this is a serious challenge to our People's Congresses system," Xinhua said. "It must be seriously dealt with in accordance with the law."

Xinhua named Tong Mingqian, the former Party chief of Hengyang, a city in Hunan province, as being "directly responsible" for the election scandal.

In China, municipal officials have the power to appoint representatives of their provincial assembly, the local parliament which generally acts as a rubber stamp for party decisions, rather than a forum for policy or debate.

Competition to become lawmakers in some areas has opened the door to corruption, as holding office can provide the opportunity to influence the decision-making process in areas like business contracts.

Since taking power last year, Chinese President Xi Jinping has led a sweeping crackdown on corruption, promising to stamp out high-flying "tigers" as well as low-ranking "flies" amid widespread disquiet over government corruption.

China reforms one-child policy, labor camps

Meanwhile China's legislature formally approved on Saturday

a relaxation of the country's one-child policy.

The standing committee of the National People's Congress passed a resolution that will allow couples to have two children if either of the parents is an only child, Xinhua said. Until now, only in cases in which both partners were only children, were they allowed to have two children.

The change is expected to allow around 10 million couples to have a second child if they so choose. The one-child policy was introduced by Beijing more than three decades ago

in an effort to prevent overpopulation

in what was already by far the world's most populous nation.

Also on Saturday, the committee approved the abolishment of re-education labor camps, which were introduced in the late 1950s as a way of dealing with petty offenders.

Both changes had been agreed at a previous meeting of top Communist Party officials.

jr/ccp (Reuters, AFP)

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