Tuesday, October 31, 2006
Anti-corruption probe spreads to Beijing
October 26, 2006 - 3:09PM
More than 300 investigators have descended on Beijing as a government crackdown on corruption spreads from China's financial hub of Shanghai to the capital, two sources say.
The Beijing investigation follows the dismissal last month of Shanghai Communist Party chief Chen Liangyu, who also lost his seat in the party's decision-making Politburo, making him the most senior Chinese official toppled for corruption in a decade.
The party's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection sent more than 300 investigators to Beijing after 200 were dispatched to Shanghai, the sources said.
"The message has been relayed to the Beijing city government," one government source told Reuters. Civil servants are barred from speaking to foreign media without authorisation.
Beijing Mayor Wang Qishan had dismissed as "nonsense" media reports that the Chinese capital has been targeted by a massive corruption probe.
But the source said the Beijing city government was asked to cooperate with the investigation.
Officials with the Beijing city government's anti-graft office and the municipal government spokesman's office said they had not heard of the investigation.
It was unclear if the investigation had anything to do with the Shanghai scandal or the dismissal of Beijing Vice-Mayor Liu Zhihua in June after being accused of corruption and dissolute behaviour. Liu oversaw construction projects for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
"Hu went after Shanghai first because Beijing is a much tougher place to handle," said a second source with ties to the leadership requesting anonymity to avoid repercussions.
Hong Kong's Beijing-funded Ta Kung Pao newspaper has said more than 50 Shanghai officials and businessmen have been taken into custody on suspicion of draining money from the city's 10 billion yuan ($A1.66 billion) social security fund for illicit loans and investments.
The second source said Beijing officials suspected of corruption and businessmen could be taken into custody as early as next month.
Alarmed by chronic corruption which has spawned social unrest, President Hu Jintao took on corrupt officials in Shanghai - the political stronghold of his predecessor Jiang Zemin - as he sought to root out abuse, enforce loyalty and further consolidate power.
On Sunday, Hu appealed to the party's 70 million members to show solidarity when he and Jiang made their first joint public appearance since the Shanghai scandal surfaced.
Hu graced a meeting of the International Association of Anti-Corruption Authorities in Beijing later that day and pledged to step up efforts to "improve the rule of law and a culture for clean and honest government, and strengthen the checks and supervision on power".
The Ta Kung Pao newspaper on Thursday quoted Wang Jianming, the top anti-corruption official of the Supreme People's Procuratorate, as saying more than 4,000 Chinese officials were wanted for corruption and had fled abroad.