08/07/2013 01:13 EDT | Updated 10/06/2013 05:12 EDT

4 Shanghai court officials punished after video suggests hotel room visits with prostitutes

BEIJING, China - Two top Shanghai judges and another court official caught on videotape apparently taking prostitutes to hotel rooms after dining with a contractor have been stripped of their Communist Party membership and will likely lose their jobs.

The case has aggravated public distrust of the court system and shed new light on continued wrongdoing by officials despite the Chinese leadership's vow to crack down on all corruption.

The hotel surveillance video, obtained and released by a disgruntled defendant in a civil court case, triggered an investigation by the Shanghai Communist Party Committee, which said late Tuesday that the three Shanghai Supreme Court officials "participated in prostitution" after being invited to dinner. A fourth court official accepted female companionship that evening but did not take a woman to a room, the panel said.

The statement did not clarify whether the contractor paid for prostitutes, but party rules bar both involvement in prostitution and accepting bribes. The committee said the three involved in prostitution were stripped of party membership while the fourth court official was on probation, and that it was requesting that the court dismiss all four employees.

"They slept with prostitutes, but they raped the law," commentator Liu Xuesong wrote in an editorial posted on the website of the Hong Kong-based Phoenix TV broadcaster and widely circulated online in mainland China.