Chinese railway minister stripped of his post amid a corruption investigation
China's railway minister Mr. Liu Zhijun, who championed the explosion in high-speed rail construction in China, loses post in corruption inquiry
China’s long-standing Railway Minister Liu Zhijun was today sacked from a key party post following investigations over ''severe violation of discipline'', according to a report on Saturday by Xinhua, the state news agency.
February 12, 2010, Beijing - Liu Zhijun, China's Railway Minister , has been placed under investigation "for serious disciplinary violations", according to the official Xinhua news agency.
58-year-old Liu, who was appointed as the Minister for Railways in 2003, was also replaced as the ministry's Communist Party secretary. He had been managing the country’s massive multi-billion dollar investment program for China’s railway system.
While no details were released about the investigation, its language suggests Liu is being accused of corruption.
Before Mr. Liu, perhaps the most prominent official to be felled on corruption charges was Chen Liangyu, the party boss of Shanghai; Mr. Chen was dismissed from his Shanghai post in 2006 and sentenced in 2008 to 18 years in prison.
Mr. Liu’s family has been dogged by charges of abuse of power. In April 2006, Mr. Liu’s younger brother, Liu Zhixiang, was given a suspended death sentence by a court in Hubei Province for hiring people to kill a man who had revealed that he was a corrupt official. The brother, who was the head of the railways bureau in the city of Wuhan, was also convicted of taking bribes and embezzling public funds and property worth more than $5 million over a nine-year period.
Sheng Guangzu, 62, chief of the General Administration of Customs, has reportedly been named to replace Liu Zhijun, Xinhua reported.
The inquiry raises questions about China’s deep investment in high-speed railways, a vast nationwide initiative that has been a favorite project of Mr. Liu, who has spent his entire career in the ministry.
The railway ministry employs 2.5 million people across China and commands a vast budget. The largest annual mass movement of people in the world takes place on Chinese trains during the Lunar New Year holiday, when people all across the country return home to reunite with their families. But this is also the time when corruption in the railway industry becomes the most obvious — large numbers of tickets somehow end up in the hands of scalpers, and some people are forced to pay well above the original price to go home.
Mr. Liu personally championed the explosion in high-speed rail construction. China already has the world’s longest high-speed rail (HSR) network with about 8,358 km (5,193 mi) of routes in service as of January 2011 including 1,995 km (1,240 mi) of rail lines with top speeds of 350 km/h (220 mph).
The country is undergoing an HSR building boom. With generous funding from the Chinese government's economic stimulus program, 17,000 km (11,000 mi) of high-speed lines are now under construction. The entire HSR network will reach 13,000 km (8,100 mi) by 2012 and 25,000 km (16,000 mi) by 2015.
The most impressive operational line is the one named Wuguang from the southern provincial capital of Guangzhou to the interior metropolis of Wuhan. The train has the world’s fastest average speed, traversing 968 km (601 miles) in a little over three hours. WuGuang, meanwhile, is expected to expand northward to Beijing and South to Hong Kong by 2013. The 1,300-kilometer Beijing-to-Shanghai line with top speeds of 380 km/h is sheduled to open by July 2011.