As China reels under a cascade of stunning property-related corruption scandals, several local governments are placing restrictions on the availability of housing ownership information.
Authorities in Zhangzhou (Fujian Province) and Yancheng (Jiangsu Province) have banned residents from running property information searches by homeowner name.
Zhangzhou cadres have been warned they might be charged with a crime if they publicize housing information.
The Beijing Commission of Housing and Urban-Rural Construction reportedly issued an internal memo forbidding its employees to search property holdings by owner name.
The move has been described by authorities as a necessary privacy-protection measure.
But Caixin suggested the ban would serve primarily to protect corrupt officials from detection.
Sharply criticizing the new restrictions, Cao Lin of China Youth Daily argued officials should be held to a higher standard of transparency than the general public.
Since the new Party leadership was unveiled last November, property-hoarding officials have been spotted in several provinces.
Earlier this month, a police chief from Guangdong Province was removed from his post after state media reported he allegedly owned 192 properties, some of which were registered under a false identity.
The State Council set a June 2012 deadline for the establishment of a national real-estate registration network that would pool property information from 40 cities and municipalities.
The project has stalled due to spotty participation from the local governments, according to media sources.
Sources: Caixin Net (财新网), The Economic Observer (经济观察报), China Youth Daily (中国青年报)
A version of this post appeared in the China Compliance Digest. For a limited time, subscribers to China Compliance Digest will receive the China Anti-Corruption Handbook (normally $750) and FCPA Blog membership (normally $495) at no extra charge. Details are here.