FUZHOU - After nine years of absence from a government post, Jiang Jinxiang, the "toughest civil servant" whose story has stirred up many disputes both on and offline, went back to work on Monday.
Jiang, who had worked in Longyan city in East China's Fujian province as a former section chief under the standing committee of the Longyan people's congress, was suspended from work in May 2002 after reporting on what he alleged was the poor quality of a local underground utilities project. He stated his concerns in documents he distributed to delegates of the Longyan people's congress.
Jiang said his act led to retaliation.
"I was shocked because they did nothing about the problem I reported but instead went after me," Jiang was quoted as saying.
Jiang was placed on suspension and, according to earlier reports, eventually left his position without asking for permission. He was later dismissed from his office in the Longyan people's congress and transferred to the supervision wing of the local urban construction authority in Oct 2003.
Jiang, for his part, maintained that he was still on suspension from his previous employer and that he had never received a formal notice of dismissal. He denied that he had been transferred to a different position and avoided showing up to his new job for a single day of work.
Meanwhile, his salary from his previous position continued to be paid on time. His account accrued about 150,000 yuan ($22,727) over the course of 89 months.
Jiang's case became a topic of debate after a friend of his began to discuss it on the Internet. The public sarcastically dubbed Jiang "China's toughest civil servant" for his nine years of freeloading.
Jiang said the name is not a good description him.
"I'm not 'tough' at all, nor do I come from a powerful background," Jiang said. "My entire family lives on my salary. This irresponsible result (his suspension and transfer) came about because I was too responsible for my job in the first place."
Zheng Lixin, the head of the Longyan construction bureau, said the salary continued to be paid out of charity to Jiang, who was experiencing domestic troubles.
But many experts said such humanitarian acts were uncalled for in this situation.
"Whatever the reason, paying salaries to chronically absent civil servants is a misuse of public resources," said Wen Yueran, a human resources expert at Renmin University of China. "Yet Jiang's case is just a tip of the iceberg among our nation's civil service employees."
"The cause of these troubles is our inadequate system for selecting civil servants," Ren Jianmin, a public administration expert with Tsinghua University, said in a report by Legal Daily.
"Although candidates for entry-level positions are selected by examinations, those for higher positions have usually been appointed," Ren said. "The best solution is to have competition at all levels of selection."
Jiang Jinxiang told China Daily that he now has a job working at the pension office for the supervision department he was supposed to be transferred to nine years ago. Beyond his basic pay of 2700 yuan a month, he has the possibility of receiving a travel allowance of 300 yuan a month. "But it seemed as if all my colleagues are still shunning me as if I'm some kind of alien."
"I'd never thought my case would raise so much attention nationwide," Jiang said. "But I don't regret anything, so long as the whole thing can be brought to a satisfactory end."
Although local authorities said they properly responded to the questions Jiang raised in 2003 over construction quality, Jiang claimed the case was never thoroughly investigated and the full truth has yet to be uncovered.
"By returning to work, I did not eliminate my objections to the unfair treatment I received and the issue I reported," said the 55-year-old. "I'll keep watching and will hand in my resignation if the problems are not properly dealt with."