BEIJING — The rise of new Chinese leader Xi Jinping last November has not been good for mainland officials caught with their pants down.
In recent months, a slew of low-level Communist officials as well as a few high ranking ones —most notably the vice party chief of the southwestern province of Sichuan, Li Chuncheng — have been exposed by local media and dismissed from their positions after their sexual peccadilloes came to light.
The latest senior official to be toppled due to a sex scandal, Yi Junqing, was a vice minister in charge of China Central Committee’s Central Compilation and Translation Bureau.
His dismissal was announced Thursday in a one-sentence statement by Chinese state media, which simply noted he had been "removed from post for 'improper lifestyle.'"
The terse release by the state-run Xinhua news service belied the expansive and often lurid claims that have flooded the Web about Yi’s sexual trysts. Yi was seemingly exposed by his alleged mistress, Chang Yan, who posted a 120,000 Chinese character essay online detailing the sex, money and gifts exchanged over many months.
Though many of the affair’s particulars read like the cliché-ridden narratives familiar to many Chinese who have followed the adventures of officials over the years, this case is unique in that it shows the lengths to which many in China go to secure coveted ministry jobs, and the economic and social security that comes with those jobs.
Chang, 35, a married native of China’s Shanxi province, was a visiting post-doctorate student at the Translation Bureau and had aspirations of landing a job there once her studies were completed.
Earning employment at the bureau’s Beijing office — and thus the proper permits needed to bring her husband from Shanxi to live and work in Beijing —would require the authorization of Yi, who ran the bureau.
According to Chang’s account, the price for that approval turned out to be steep, both morally and financially.
"I was trying to figure out what he wants, money or me," Chang wrote in one excerpt translated by the U.K.’s Telegraph newspaper. "There is no free lunch if I wanted to work for the bureau. I knew there was a price to pay to work for the bureau. I had already paid 10,000 yuan [USD$1,600]. He said he would take two months to get me the job and then he would invite me."
Besides giving in and becoming Yi’s mistress, Chang writes that she paid $10,000 in total to Yi to secure this government position. Yi’s failure to deliver on that job led Chang to post details of the sordid affair on her private blog, she said.
That someone would sleep with a potential boss or even pay for a position is of no surprise in China, but to have it written about so openly sparked an uproar online.
Despite censors erasing the story on Chinese websites, news of the essay soon spread on the Web.
On China’s Twitter-like service, Weibo, the affair became a hot topic Friday.
A post by Chang on her blog — where the original entry was quickly erased — seemed to suggest that the story had been written as a piece of fiction.
"In my spare time I put together a work of fiction," Chang wrote on her blog entry. "I suffered serious depression... and regularly sank into a state of delusion and even fantasy."
Weibo users overwhelmingly dismissed the confession as forced and condemned Yi for his corruption.
"Rumor has again proven to be truth," wrote one user.
"If we got rid of officials like Yi who had these types of affairs, we’d have to eliminate 99.9 percent of them!" declared another.
Regardless of whether her story is true or not, Yi’s dismissal Thursday shows the lengths to which China’s ruling Communist Party appears willing to go in order to maintain its legitimacy and supremacy.
NBC News' Le Li contributed to this report.