The Communist Party of China (CPC) said on Monday it had expelled the former Railways Minister, Liu Zhijun, over “serious disciplinary violations” and his “morally corrupt” administration, drawing the line on a corruption scandal that stirred public anger against law-flouting government officials during a crucial transition year.
Mr. Liu has been under investigation after he was sacked in February 2011. He had wielded vast influence over the lucrative state-run railway industry, spearheading an unprecedented expansion of the domestic high-speed rail network which is now the world's largest. Following a bullet train collision in Wenzhou last July that left at least 40 people dead, anger towards the Railways Ministry exploded.
The CPC's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) said in a statement on Monday that Mr. Liu was found to have used his position “to seek huge illegal interests”, adding that he was “morally corrupted”, had taken a huge amount of bribes and bore the responsibility for “severe corruption”.
The statement did not release further details regarding Mr. Liu's corruption; but reports last year alleging that an associate of his fled with close to $3 billion hinted at the scale of his crimes.
According to reports in the Chinese media, Mr. Liu's corrupt lifestyle was a major factor behind his removal — he was reported to have had as many as 18 mistresses, including actresses, nurses and train stewards, the Global Times said.
The decision to expel Mr. Liu was taken following a meeting of the CPC Central Committee's Politburo here on Monday. The meeting was closely followed after reporters posted messages online in recent days suggesting there would be a big announcement, widely expected to have been related to the case of purged Politburo member Bo Xilai. No information was, however, released on the case of Mr. Bo.
The former Chongqing party secretary is under investigation along with his wife Gu Kailai, who has been accused of being behind the murder of a British businessman Neil Heywood, and his former police chief Wang Lijun, who fled to a U.S. Consulate in Chengdu after falling out with Mr. Bo and may be charged with treason.
The high-profile corruption case of Mr. Liu and the scandal surrounding Mr. Bo, a popular politician and a “princeling” — he is the son of a CPC founding revolutionary — with wide connections, have presented a challenge to the Chinese leadership ahead of a once-in-decade transition later this year.
In recent months, President Hu Jintao and his anointed successor, Vice-President Xi Jinping, have issued strong calls against corruption in officialdom, which has emerged as a source of public anger. While Mr. Hu described the battle against corruption as “time-consuming, complicated and difficult”, Mr. Xi has told CPC officials to stick to the principle of “seeking truth from acts” and has called for political unity.
“To maintain the party's ideological purity is to guarantee the unity of the party,” he said, accusing some cadres of “corrupt behaviour which is not conducive to the purity of the party”. “Today some people join the party not because they believe in Marxism and want to devote themselves to Socialism with Chinese characteristics,” he added, “but because becoming a member brings them personal benefits.”