Chinese Communist official faces charges

September 26, 2006|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

BEIJING -- The Communist Party boss of China's wealthiest city has been charged with corruption and ousted from his job, state media reported yesterday.

Chen Liangyu, who served not only as party secretary of Shanghai but also as a member of Beijing's ruling politburo, is the highest ranking official in more than a decade to be targeted in a campaign against corruption.

As head of China's showcase city and a protege of former Chinese President Jiang Zemin, Chen was seen as practically untouchable even when other graft-related scandals swirled around him.

The investigation into Chen centered on the misuse of Shanghai's social security funds for illicit investments in real estate and other infrastructure projects, according to the New China News Agency. Chen is accused of shielding corrupt colleagues, and abusing his position to benefit family members.

This summer, more than 100 central government investigators from Beijing went to Shanghai to probe the case. Two senior city officials, including one of Chen's close aides, were dismissed, as well as real estate, private investment and utility executives. Chen's removal "demonstrates the party's determination to fight corruption," the government news agency said. "Whoever it is, no matter how high their position, anyone who violates party rules or national law will be severely investigated and punished."

Analysts say his downfall also appears to be part of a carefully orchestrated plan by President Hu Jintao to consolidate his power ahead of next year's party congress and to clip the ambitions of his predecessor's allies.

"The Jiang Zemin era is over; the Shanghai Gang is being dismantled," said Cheng Li, a China expert at the Brookings Institution.

In June, Liu Zhihua, a Beijing vice mayor who oversaw construction for the 2008 Olympics, was fired on corruption charges.

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