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China Corruption Scandal Probe Widens

  • Luis Ramirez

China's communist leaders are again vowing to weed out corrupt party officials as a probe into a scandal grows in China's largest city, Shanghai. The investigation this week brought down the city's top Communist Party official.

On Monday, it was announced that Chen Liangyu had been fired from his job as Shanghai Communist Party secretary, for his alleged role in the misuse of hundreds of millions of dollars in city pension funds.

On Tuesday, the probe appeared to widen, with officials in Beijing promising a thorough investigation. Gan Yisheng, head of the party's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, suggested the case might implicate more officials - telling reporters in Beijing that no one is immune.

"Any party member who violates party discipline, no matter how high or low his rank, will be thoroughly investigated and seriously dealt with," said Gan Yisheng.

Gan's stern words reflect efforts by President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao to weed out corruption, which leaders have publicly said is a threat to the party's hold on power and to stability in China.

Several other Shanghai officials have already been named in the investigation, along with prominent business people.

Chen Liangyu, the Shanghai party chief, was also a member of the Communist Party's all-powerful Politburo. He is the highest-ranking party official to be brought down in an ongoing, nationwide campaign against endemic corruption.

Nevertheless, despite repeated arrests and warnings from Beijing similar to that issued by Gan Yisheng, cases of high-level corruption continue to crop up with great regularity in China.

The central leadership has publicized its anti-corruption campaign as a sign that it is doing something to halt the problem. Officials say that last year, the party expelled more than 11,000 members for taking bribes and other crimes.

The number of uprisings in the countryside has been rising in recent years - many of them fueled by public anger over graft by local officials.

Political analysts say this is a crucial time for Hu Jintao to advertise his government's anti-corruption efforts. The party is preparing for a major party congress next year, when Mr. Hu is expected to further consolidate his power by installing protégés in key party positions.

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