February 14, 2011

China's railway minister suspended in corruption probe

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CHINA'S minister of railways Mr Liu Zhijun has been suspended from his position and is under investigation for "serious disciplinary violations," a term often used in Beijing to describe corruption and abuses of power by officials.
 
The government has not revealed any further details of the charges against Liu, who has been railway minister since 2003, and he has not been formally dismissed. A report in the South China Morning Post suggested the investigation might extend to other officials, noting the Ministry of Railways (MOR) had removed the leadership page from its website. The article also quoted an unnamed ministry source as saying, "there will be some changes in personnel."

The chief of China's customs authority Mr Sheng Guangzu has been drafted in to oversee the ministry while the investigation takes place.

In a statement issued today on the MOR website, Sheng pledged China would continue as planned with its massive railway investment programme, and that construction quality and safety will be paramount considerations in all projects. However shares in CSR, the country's largest rolling stock manufacturer fell 4.8% on the Hong Kong stock exchange this morning, while CNR shares dipped 0.7% in Shanghai amid fears of a slowdown.

Liu is the most senior official to be investigated for corruption in China since the former mayor of Shanghai Mr Chen Liangyu, who was dismissed in 2006 and jailed for 18 years in 2008. According to the Communist party, 146,517 officials were punished for disciplinary violations last year, 804 of whom were prosecuted.

Liu's younger brother, Mr Liu Zhijuang, MOR's former Wuhan district director, was given a suspended death sentence five years ago for his involvement in a ticketing scam.

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