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China Corruption Probe Widens

FILE - China's President Xi Jinping.
FILE - China's President Xi Jinping.

A top Chinese security official and 16 senior People’s Liberation Army (PLA) officers are reported to be the latest high-level suspects swept up in President Xi’s Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign.

The Communist Party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) announced this month that Vice-Minister for State Security Ma Jian is under investigation for what were called “serious violations of the law.” The announcement did not specify what those violations are, but it mentioned the words “party discipline”, signaling a corruption probe, according to numerous observers.

The South China Morning Post reports that Ma’s relatives are also under investigation.

Another publication, the International Business Times, said the probe into Ma and his relatives “(are) expected to be part of a high-profile investigation into activities at the Founder Group, a Peking (sic) University-owned technology conglomerate.” The IBT adds that “Ma is suspected to have close relations with Founder Group CEO Li You, who allegedly helped one of Ma’s relatives to conduct highly profitable securities trades.”

The Founder Group was created in 1986 to focus on information technology, pharmaceuticals, real estate, finance, and commodities trading. It, too, is ensnared in corruption allegations.

Reuters reported that the group’s second-largest shareholder, Beijing Zenith “accused Founder Group senior executives of embezzling tens of billions of yuan. Reuters also reported that Founder Group had announced this month that four of its top managers had been ordered to cooperate with investigators.
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s news site says those under investigation include the deputy commander of a major military unit in Chengdu, the former political commissar in Sichuan, the deputy political commissar for Tibet, and the commander in Shanxi.

This is not the first time the state security ministry has been the target of a corruption investigation.

Former State Security Minister Zhou Yongkang has been detained on corruption charges. The state also seized $14.5 billion in assets from the minister’s family and members of his inner circle.

“The Ministry of State Security, China’s internal intelligence agency, has been the recipient of huge amounts of money and political support,” said analyst Kerry Brown, who is the South Asia program associate fellow at the London-based Chatham House research organization. “The MSS, under the control of Zhou Yongkang, became a law unto itself The MSS has had very little accountability.”

“As with other institutions affected by the anti-corruption purge,” Brown said, “the [leadership’s] strategy has been to take one or two individuals and to make an example of them. In this case, it has been Ma Jian…This is a sign that for the current anti-corruption campaign, no organization or entity is off bounds. The same goes for the military.”

Several high ranking People’s Liberation Army officers were earlier caught in Xi’s net. One retired general, Xu Caihou, was reportedly found to have so much cash that authorities allegedly had to put the money on a scale to get a rough idea as to its amount. Another General, Gu Junshan, was reported to have amassed a fortune of some $98 million.

President Xi recently gave a speech at the CCDI urging it to press onward. The message was echoed shortly afterward by the official party newspaper People’s Daily.

“Corruption problems and political problems have interwoven, and it has seriously undermined Communist rule and the ruling party’s unity,” the Daily said. “The official publication warned that unchallenged corruption threatens the legitimacy of the party’s control of China.

According to the South China Morning Post, CCDI Chief Wang Qishan is reported to have warned that even those entrusted with rooting out corruption will be watched carefully. The publication also reported that Wang announced that the CCDI would intensify its scrutiny of China’s more than 40 state-owned enterprises.

But China analyst Nigel Inkster of the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies said Xi’s corruption purge may be on shaky legal footing.

“So far things seem to be going Xi’s way,” he told VOA. “But he has gambled a lot on the success of this campaign which, however, suffers from the fact that it is not being pursued within a framework of rule of law…This may well be the hurdle at which it falls.”

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    Jeffrey Young

    Jeffrey Young is a Senior Analyst in VOA’s Global English TV.  He has spent years covering global strategic issues, corruption, the Middle East, and Africa. During most of 2013, he was on special assignment in Baghdad and elsewhere with the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR).  Previous VOA activities include video journalism and the “Focus” news analysis unit. He also does journalist training overseas for VOA.