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China investigates top planning official for graft

May 13, 2013

BEIJING (AP) — Chinese authorities have launched an investigation into a powerful economic planning official accused by a prominent journalist of corruption, the latest high-level target of the new leadership’s anti-graft drive.

The ruling Communist Party’s disciplinary agency said in a one-sentence statement on its website that Liu Tienan, deputy head of the Cabinet’s National Development and Reform Commission, is being investigated for “suspected serious disciplinary violations.”

The statement by the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection on Sunday did not provide further details. But the investigation is being seen by Chinese state media as the party’s response to corruption allegations against Liu made by Luo Changping, deputy editor-in-chief of the respected Caijing magazine.

Luo said in posts on his Twitter-like microblog in December that Liu had shady ties with a businessman, was involved in large, problematic bank loans and fabricated his academic qualifications.

Luo reportedly first obtained information on Liu’s alleged wrongdoings from the official’s former mistress, who lives in Japan and accused Liu of issuing death threats against her after their relationship ended.

Liu, 58, wields significant power in his position as deputy chief of the planning agency in charge of steering the world’s second-largest economy. Liu also had been director of the National Energy Administration, which carried out the country’s energy policy, until he was replaced in March.

The brief official statement on Liu does not mention the official’s current status, but officials under investigation by the party’s anti-graft agency are typically taken in for questioning and held in some form of detention.

A man who answered the phone at the National Development and Reform Commission’s press office referred queries to the foreign affairs department, where a man who answered the phone said he had “no idea” about the case.

Luo did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but said Monday in a public post on his microblog that he spent a year verifying and corroborating the claims made against Liu and that he had more than one source of information.

In announcing the investigation into Liu, the party did not address Luo’s specific allegations against the official. The National Energy Administration’s press office initially had dismissed Luo’s allegations as “pure slander.”

The Communist Party newspaper People’s Daily criticized the energy agency’s defense of Luo, saying in a post on its official microblog: “the spokesman holds a public office, how did he sink to the level of being a ‘house slave,’ endorsing an individual?”

China’s new leadership under Communist Party chief Xi Jinping has vowed to root out the widespread graft that has disgusted the public and undermined the party’s legitimacy.

Liu is the latest high-level official to be investigated for corruption since Xi took power. In December, a deputy party secretary of Sichuan province was removed from his post following state media reports that he was suspected in influence-peddling and questionable real estate deals.

In a separate case, state media reported that a former party secretary of a district in the megacity of Chongqing has been officially indicted by prosecutors on charges of accepting bribes. Lei Zhengfu has been at the center of a sex tape scandal in which officials allegedly were extorted by real estate developers after being secretly filmed in liaisons with hired women.

Update hourly