Wed, Oct 25, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Agency in China warns about need to combat graft

AP , BEIJING

China has punished 17,505 officials this year on corruption charges and its top prosecutor has warned that the rule of law could be in danger if graft isn't stamped out, a government news agency said yesterday.

The report comes amid a widening scandal in Shanghai over possible misuse of government pension funds.

The city's Communist Party secretary has been fired, a leading businessman is being questioned and news reports yesterday said two senior officials in charge of managing government-owned assets were under investigation.

"These punishment figures show that the country's prosecutors are determined to root out corruption," deputy chief prosecutor Wang Zhenchuan (王振川) was quoted by Xinhua news agency as saying.

Wang was speaking at a conference on international cooperation in anti-corruption efforts, which is being held this week in Beijing.

The reports said the two were among officials implicated in a scandal over alleged illicit investments of city pension and housing funds, due to the commission's oversight over several major city projects now under investigation, including Shanghai's Formula One auto racing track.

The government is in the midst of a multi-year crackdown aimed at stamping out rampant corruption and other abuses that threaten to erode public acceptance of Communist rule.

China's chief prosecutor, Jia Chunwang (賈春旺), said at the conference that "corruption, if not controlled, would undermine democracy and the rule of law and engender an increase in organized crime and terrorism," Xinhua said.

The report didn't give any details of the punishments handed out this year.

However, officials have been jailed and executed, for offenses like stealing public money, selling construction and commercial licenses and demanding bribes in exchange for promotions.

The report brings the number of corrupt officials punished since 2003 to 67,505, Xinhua said.

Wang was quoted as saying that "corruption is on the decline in many sectors."

The report didn't offer details and the government doesn't give statistics on prosecuting graft.

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