BEIJING — Liu Tienan, a vice chairman of China’s economic planning agency, is being investigated by the country’s top anti-corruption agency over suspected “serious discipline violations.”
A one-sentence statement announcing the probe was posted on the Ministry of Supervision’s website over the weekend. The official Xinhua News Agency said the Communist Party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection is carrying out the investigation. No further information was given about the alleged violations or whether the official has been removed from his post.
Liu, 58, one of 11 vice chairmen of the National Development and Reform Commission, is the latest senior official to come under investigation amid a renewed campaign against graft.
Xi Jinping, who became general secretary of the Communist Party in November and the country’s president in March, has warned that failure to address corruption could lead to social unrest and the demise of the party.
“There’s a common perception that corruption is endemic among senior officials so leaders have to show they are doing something,” said Willy Wo-Lap Lam, an adjunct professor of history at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
“Xi started an austerity campaign but he is under pressure to do more particularly with regard to senior officials and princelings,” Lam said, referring to descendants of the founders of Communist China who have amassed wealth and political influence.
Allegations against Liu have been widely reported on the Internet since December, when Luo Changping, deputy managing editor of Caijing Magazine, wrote on his Weibo microblog, a Twitter-like service run by Sina Corp., that the official was involved in improper dealings with business associates.
Liu has been an NDRC vice chairman, a vice minister-level position, since 2008. He was head of the National Energy Administration until March when he was replaced by Wu Xinxiong as part of a government restructuring that saw the administration take over power-market regulation.
The Beijing-based NDRC formulates economic policies and approves industrial and infrastructure projects. It also oversees price reforms and sets the price of resources including oil, natural gas and electricity. Liu, who was still named as a vice chairman on the commission’s website yesterday, is listed as being responsible for the regulation of the economy and industrial coordination.
“The NDRC will suffer some damage from this,” said Lam. “It’s the most powerful unit of the State Council and has a lot of vested interests. It has made many enemies.”
Liu Tienan is the latest senior official to be investigated by the party’s discipline watchdog.
Bo Xilai, the son of a revolutionary leader, was dismissed as party chief of Chongqing municipality in March last year, and was suspended from the Politburo Central Committee a month later accused of serious disciplinary violations.
His wife was last year convicted of murdering a British businessman and Bo, who was expelled from the party in September for abuse of power and involvement in the death, is awaiting trial on graft allegations.
Liu Zhijun, China’s former railway minister, was removed from his post in 2011 and was last month charged with corruption and abuse of power as the party rooted out graft that blossomed during the debt-fueled rollout of the world’s biggest high-speed rail network.
The downfall of Bo and Liu Zhijun happened during the reign of Xi’s predecessor Hu Jintao, said Lam, who has written books on Chinese politics. “So the public is most interested in whether the new administration has the guts and the political will to act.”
Xi started a campaign against graft and extravagance among party members, government officials and state-owned enterprises after taking power in November in a once-a-decade leadership transfer.
He told fellow leaders on Nov. 17 that “the more severe the corruption problem becomes, it will ultimately lead the party and the nation to perish,” according to remarks published by the People’s Daily, the party mouthpiece.
Wang Qishan, one of the seven members of the Politburo Standing Committee, the party’s top decision-making body, was made head of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection as part of the leadership changes. The body is charged with rooting out corruption and malfeasance among party cadres.
Within weeks of Wang’s appointment, Xinhua reported that Li Chuncheng, a deputy party secretary of southwestern Sichuan province, was put under investigation on suspicion of a severe violation of discipline.
The government is encouraging people to report corruption by filing anonymous tips on the Internet. Online news portals created links last month directing users to pages of the party’s discipline department, the land ministry and other agencies where they can send tips, Xinhua said last week.
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