China disciplines pair of officials

Government crackdown targets corruption

September 28, 2006|By Ching-Ching Ni | Ching-Ching Ni,LOS ANGELES TIMES

BEIJING -- The Chinese government said yesterday it had disciplined two officials for illegally seizing farmland, two days after it removed the party chief of Shanghai on corruption charges.

The moves, coming a little more than a week ahead of the Chinese Communist Party's leadership meeting, have raised speculation that President Hu Jintao is acting on a dual agenda: purging potential rivals while he attempts to quell public unrest over government corruption and impunity.

The dismissal Monday of Chen Liangyu, a protege of former President Jiang Zemin and a member of Beijing's ruling politburo, was seen as part of a continuing nationwide crackdown on corruption. But analysts noted it also allows Hu to reshuffle provincial leadership and position his own allies for key promotions in the central government.

Yesterday's announcement also might have been timed to show that Shanghai, and Chen, are not being singled out for discipline, and to demonstrate that the central government is responding to rising unrest in the countryside over seizure of farmland, observers said. The government-controlled New China News Agency said Li Xinmin, the former vice-governor of Henan province, and Wang Wenchao, the former mayor of the province's capital, had been given "serious warnings" for sanctioning the seizure of almost 2,470 acres of agricultural land for a school campus.

Gan Yisheng, general secretary of the Communist Party's Discipline Inspection Commission, said at a news conference that the party had expelled 11,071 members for graft and bribe-taking in 2005 - out of a party membership of 70 million. More needs to be done to bring discipline among its ranks in order to uphold the principle of clean government, he added.

As the Shanghai probe continues, more disciplinary action could be taken against the city's senior leaders and their relatives. Reports are spreading that security has been stepped up at Shanghai airports and officials' passports have been confiscated to prevent potential suspects from fleeing the country.

"As our investigation progresses, we may find other people who were involved," said Gan. "No matter who is involved, we will punish them severely. We exercise zero tolerance toward the violation of regulations and laws."

Nervous Shanghai cadres quickly responded with a public show of loyalty to Beijing.

"The Shanghai Municipal government and local party members and cadres all resolutely upheld the decision to investigate Chen Liangyu for his severe discipline violation," said a report by the New China News Agency carried by the state media.

Among the big questions looming before the party plenum that begins Oct. 8 are who will replace Chen on the 24-member politburo. Also unresolved are the futures of Han Zheng, mayor of Shanghai, who was appointed Monday as acting Shanghai party secretary, and Huang Ju, a former Shanghai party secretary, a member of the powerful nine-member politburo standing committee. "I expect eventually Han Zheng would be moved out," said Dali Yang, a China expert at the University of Chicago.

Ching-Ching Ni writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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