China’s former Railways Minister Liu Zhijun, who oversaw the rapid construction of a high-speed rail network that is now the world’s largest but was later dismissed on corruption charges, was on Monday sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve by a Beijing court.
The court found that Liu had taken at least $10 million in bribes, and had also helped his associates, including the businesswoman Ding Shumiao, amass more than $ 500 million in profits by awarding them lucrative contracts. He was sentenced to 10 years in jail for abuse of power and handed a suspended death sentence for bribery.
Under Liu — known in government circles as “Great leap Liu” for his ambitious plans — the country built a massive network of high-speed rail lines, which as of last year had stretched over more than 9,300 km and had become the longest network in the world.
The length of the network is to reach 18,000 km by 2015.
As Liu amassed a fortune — with much of the money going to his business associates — and reportedly began preparing a bid to secure a top party post as a new leadership was set to take over, the Communist Party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection in early 2011 stepped in to investigate him. He was suspended in February of that year.
A collision between two high-speed trains in July 2011 in southern Wenzhou that left at least 40 people killed, further sealed his fate, as the government stopped new projects pending a safety reviewand public concerns began to grow about what had been a popular transport revolution.
The official Xinhua news agency said in a commentary on Monday that Mr. Liu’s sentence had shown that the new leadership under President Xi Jinping had “vowed ‘no exception’ when it comes to Party disciplines and law”.