China yesterday formally charged former minister of railways Liu Zhijun (劉志軍) with corruption and abuse of power, state media said, setting up the first test of newly installed Chinese President Xi Jinping’s (習近平) resolve to crack down on pervasive graft.
Liu faces either a lengthy jail sentence and possibly death. How severely he is dealt with will be an indicator of how seriously authorities will take the fight against corruption, one of the pillars of Xi’s fledgling administration.
Skeptics say corruption is too deeply rooted to be tackled effectively, but some see progress under Xi, who became Communist Party general secretary in November and president last month.
“This government is showing some determination to go after corruption,” said Wang Quanjie (王全杰), a professor at Yantai University in Shandong Province and a proponent of reform. “The government realizes that if it doesn’t tackle corruption, it will be very dangerous for them.”
“No matter who is in charge, fighting corruption is the key task, the biggest duty,” Wang said.
Liu “engaged in malpractice for personal gains and abuse of power, leading to huge losses of public properties and of the interests of the state and its people,” Xinhua news agency said.
“As a state functionary, Liu sought benefits for others by taking advantage of his position, and accepted financial incentives from others, which were of a huge amount,” the state media added.
The Liu case “proves the problems in the system, a system that gives everyone a chance to be corrupt,” said He Weifang (賀衛方), a law professor at Peking University and an outspoken critic of a system he says breeds corruption.
“It’s a system without press freedom, without government transparency, without an independent judiciary, where there is no supervision by a parliament,” He said by telephone.
In January, Xi said that anti-corruption efforts should target low-ranking “flies” as well as powerful “tigers.”
However, the effort has netted only a few high-ranking violators, among them Sichuan Province deputy Communist Party boss Li Chuncheng (李春城) and reportedly Politburo member Li Jianguo (李建國), both for “serious” disciplinary issues.