China's Dirty Ministers Must Die, Jail Is Too Good: Citizens Say

AFP, 11th July 2013

Chinese mainlanders are angrily voicing their unhappiness with punishments being handed down by the government to ministers who have fallen from grace, saying that they are not severe enough and do nothing to change the country’s deeply corrupt system.

Although China's Communist authorities are touting a suspended death sentence for an ex-minister as proof that the country’s leaders are serious about their corruption crackdown, analysts remain sceptical.

Former rail minister Liu Zhijun became the highest-ranking official punished for corruption since the new leadership under President Xi Jinping vowed to clean up the ruling party.

He was convicted of bribery involving at least 64.6 million yuan [10.5 million US dollars] but the scandal reportedly involved more than 10 times that amount.

Several other senior figures have come under investigation, including major economic policy maker Liu Tienan, former deputy director of the National Development and Reform Commission, and top provincial officials.

Numerous low-level cadres have also been sacked after Internet users exposed alleged—sometimes salacious—scandals, some involving luxury watches or multiple mistresses.

In China, suspended death sentences are routinely commuted to life in prison. Senior figures like Liu—once hailed as the "father" of the country's high-speed rail network—are often said to enjoy cushy prison conditions or medical parole.

Reports have described a prison outside Beijing, Qincheng, as reserved for elite inmates, offering more comfortable cells and relaxed treatment.

The reality of the situation has many Chinese crying out for blood.

"People are looking for genuine systemic changes, genuine checks and balances, mechanisms being built, instead of just another campaign (where) everybody will lie low for a while," said Joseph Cheng, a Chinese politics expert at City University of Hong Kong.

Liu's sentence, announced on Monday 8th July, was trumpeted as further proof of the government’s effort to stamp out graft, with the Xinhua state news agency saying it underscored "top leaders' resolve to target both high-ranking 'tigers' and low-ranking 'flies' in its anti-corruption efforts".

But in a country that executes thousands of people a year—the exact number is a state secret—many ordinary Chinese saw the opposite: different standards for the powerful.

"For officials as high-ranking as Liu Zhijun, everybody knows how luxurious their prisons are... and these kinds of special privileges show once again how unfair the system is," wrote one user of the Twitter-like microblog Sina Weibo, under the handle Shiyang Pinglun.

Another Weibo user, Laolao V, said: "This is like striking a tiger with a fly swatter."

Under Chinese law, capital punishment can be imposed for taking bribes exceeding 100,000 yuan, and the Beijing court found that Liu's offences deserved execution.

But it said it granted him leniency because he had confessed, shown repentance and helped investigators recover assets.

In high-profile cases like Liu's judicial sentences are routinely decided beforehand by political authorities, and the proceedings carefully handled. Conviction is a foregone conclusion and Liu's defence lawyers did not contest the charges.

Jean-Pierre Cabestan, a political scientist at Hong Kong Baptist University, said while Liu's treatment was "standard", the jury on the overall anti-graft campaign was still out, depending on whether more "tigers" were caught and how they were punished.

Among those expected to stand in the dock are Bo Xilai, former party chief of the southwestern megacity of Chongqing, for allegedly taking bribes and helping cover up his wife's murder of a British businessman.

Falun Gong New Tang Dynasty TV coverage

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