Four judges suspended in Shanghai sex probe

Four judges in Shanghai have been suspended over allegations they patronised prostitutes, reports and officials said Monday in the latest salacious Chinese scandal to emerge from online accusations.

An inquiry was opened after an anonymous blogger, identified by state media only by his surname Ni, posted footage online last week alleging that five officials hired prostitutes at a local resort.

The Shanghai Higher People's Court said on Tencent Weibo, a Twitter-like social media service, that Chen Xueming, the chief judge of its No.1 Civil Tribunal, and three other officials had been suspended.

"The Shanghai Higher People's Court is highly concerned about the incident and has launched an investigation into the case," it said.

The court previously said Zhao Minghua, deputy chief judge of the tribunal, was among those named on Ni's blog.

Ni claimed Zhao intervened in a civil case in 2009 that caused him a huge financial loss, the state-run Global Times newspaper reported Monday.

He spent a year following Zhao, it said, "and discovered that he frequently went to nightclubs, owned several properties and had extramarital affairs".

Surveillance video posted by Ni purported to show five officials including Chen and Zhao entering a luxury room after a three-hour banquet at the resort in June, followed by several women who stood by the door.

Subtitles said that Chen allocated the prostitutes to each man. Video showed officials walking out two hours later, some of them arm-in-arm with women.

The identity of the fifth person in the footage remains unknown.

Shanghai's city disciplinary commission, which is taking part in the investigation, said on its account on Tencent Weibo that all four of the accused were judges.

"The involvement of four judges in the 'nightclub entertainment incident' deprived the law of its dignity, put judiciary to shame and caused damage to justice," it said.

It was investigating "to preserve the image of the party and the government and safeguard the stable political, economic and social development of Shanghai", it said, adding it would publicly disclose the results of the case.

The incident is the latest in a series of scandals over corruption and other disciplinary violations, including sexual impropriety, by Chinese officials to be revealed online by whistleblowers.

In May authorities announced the sacking of Liu Tienan, a former deputy director of China's top economic planner, after an investigative reporter accused him of graft on Sina Weibo, another social network.

Numerous low-level cadres have also been dismissed after Internet users exposed alleged -- sometimes sordid -- scandals, some involving luxury watches or multiple mistresses.

In July Wang Suyi, a senior Chinese regional official in the northern region of Inner Mongolia, was fired after a Sina Weibo user cited his mistresses as accusing him of bribe-taking and nepotism.

Yang Dacai, an official in the central province of Shaanxi, was sacked in September 2012 after Sina Weibo users posted photographs of him wearing expensive watches, five of which were said to be worth a total of 300,000 yuan ($49,000).

China's new leaders under President Xi Jinping have vowed to fight corruption and said there would be "no leniency" for graft.

Netizens often resort to social media such as weibo to reveal officials' misconduct, though their efforts are sometimes seen as a threat to social stability and cracked down on by authorities.