Promoted from ‘clerks’ to top executives at Chinese state firm, now they’ve been suspended

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Promoted from ‘clerks’ to top executives at Chinese state firm, now they’ve been suspended

A government body in northwest China has suspended three top executives – one as young as 23 – of a big state-owned enterprise with over 100 billion yuan (US$14.5 billion) in assets following controversy over the way they were appointed.

Xian Hi-tech Holding – an SOE run by the Xian Hi-tech Industries Development Zone management committee – is under fire after it promoted the three young, inexperienced staff to executive roles in September.

Li Tian, 34, was named chairman, general manager and legal representative of the firm, while Zhao Xueying, 25, and Zhu Yue, 23, became board members of the company in Shaanxi province.

All three women were previously clerks in the company’s accounts department, according to a source with knowledge of the matter.

None of them have any management experience, publicly available company records show.

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In a statement on its WeChat account on Sunday, the management committee said it had suspended the three women from their duties and that the local disciplinary authority was investigating the appointments after doubts had been raised over their age, educational qualifications and “social connections and background”.

“We feel deeply sorry for the error in this SOE’s management,” the committee said. “In the future, we will roll out comprehensive investigations into the SOEs that we administer and improve the management system.”

On Monday morning, the committee said Wang Jinjie had been dismissed as director of the development zone’s finance bureau for “violating the SOE’s personnel appointment rules and changing the SOE’s top managers inappropriately”.

The finance bureau is a branch of the development zone’s management committee.

But the disciplinary authority also, confusingly, said they had not yet found any procedural violations regarding the appointments. “These three people don’t have any special family background,” it said.

Nor did their salaries go up when they were promoted – Li’s wages stayed at just 4,351 yuan a month, Zhao’s at 4,200 yuan and Zhu’s at 3,600 yuan, according to the committee’s statement.

Xian Hi-tech Holding has interests in urban developments and industrial estates, with total assets of 120.7 billion yuan, the committee said.

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According to a statement from the company, Li has a bachelor’s degree and previously worked at Xian Baishida Talent Service, which is also administered by the management committee. Zhao graduated from university in 2016 and previously worked for a bank in Yinchuan, in the Ningxia Hui region. And Zhu graduated from university last year, but there was no mention of any work experience.

The story has been a trending topic on Chinese social media, with more than 26 million views on microblogging site Weibo.

Some people reacted with disbelief online, including over the salary details.

“Such a high position with such low pay – are you kidding me?” one person wrote on Weibo.

“I think the Xian government’s handling [of this incident] is stupid,” another comment read. “Why didn’t it say how these three people were selected for the top positions of such a big SOE? If they are capable, why didn’t the authority give them higher salaries? If they deserve such low pay, I’m wondering how they got these high-level jobs?”

Another asked why finance bureau director Wang lost his job if there were no procedural violations.

“If the appointments have no problems, why was the director dismissed? It’s not logical,” the person said.

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