Corruption in China – Railways Head sentened to death (with reprieve)

No messing around with losing your knighthood or suspension of CIPS membership if you’re found guilty of corruption in public office in China. As the Guardian reported,

“A Beijing court has sentenced China's former minister of railways Liu Zhijun to death, with a two-year reprieve, for bribery and abuse of power, China's state media reported last week Monday, ending one of the country's highest-profile corruption cases in years”.

At least Liu had his death sentence in effect suspended. Back in 2011 two deputy mayors were executed in China for similar corruption offences. Xu Maiyong, a former vice mayor of the city of Hangzhou and Jiang Renjie, a former vice mayor of Suzhou in Jiangsu Province, were convicted of bribery and sentenced to death. Both Xu and Jiang appealed the courts’ decisions after their trials, but they were rejected and the executions went ahead.

Back to Liu Zhijun – he stood trial in Beijing on 9 June for accepting £6m in bribes between 1986 and 2011 and using his position to help 11 people win promotions or lucrative contracts, according to the state newswire Xinhua. The Beijing Times reported that investigations into Liu recovered 16 cars and more than 350 flats. He had 18 mistresses "including actresses, nurses and train stewards", the state-run Global Times reported in 2011.

18 mistresses! And he got the trains to run on time! Actually, that’s not strictly true. He did preside over the incredible growth in China’s high-speed rail network, but one of the factors that increased public suspicion of what was going on with regard to corruption in the railway system  was the train crash of July 2011 which killed 40 people. Many observers felt the true causes were never really disclosed , but rumours of sub-standard materials and construction – perhaps because of the underlying corruption in the procurement process – were widespread.

Does this trial and verdict show that the new Chinese President, Xi Jinping, appointed in March, is really getting serious about corruption in public life? Not necessarily. As the ancient Chinese proverb goes, “one Crispy Duck doesn’t make a summer”. Some observers think it’s the ostentatious display of the benefits from corruption that isn’t liked by the rulers. Perhaps if the corruption is done quietly and without too much bling on show, you’re still likely to get away with it.

I was going to finish with a joke about the 18 mistress. But really, corruption, as we’ve said before, is no laughing matter,  so that temptation has been resisted.  Corruption is simply very bad news for everyone - countries and citizens -  so it would be good if this incident does herald a tougher stance in China.  And all of us need to maintain vigilance in terms of propriety within our own national public arenas.

First Voice

  1. Trevor Black:

    It just shows the cultural differences. In the UK he would be knighted and be entitled to his £1m end of year bonus and even get him a seat in the House of Lords.. I suggest that we grant him political asylum immediately and in return put him in charge of Network Rail.

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