Global Policy Forum

China Confirms Corruption Inquiry


By Erik Eckolm

New York Times
March 5, 2000

As China's Parliament prepares to start its annual session, a spokesman admitted today that one of the body's top officials is suspected of corruption. Cheng Kejie, a vice chairman of the powerful Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, or Parliament, is under investigation "in relation to his economic interests," the spokesman said in response to a question from a Hong Kong journalist.

Rumors that Mr. Cheng had been detained have been reported in a few foreign publications. But there was no official confirmation of any troubles surrounding him until today. Mr. Cheng is one of the highest officials yet to fall in spreading corruption inquiries in China, which some top officials have warned are putting the Communist Party's future in peril because so many inquiries end at the doors of senior party members.

Mr. Cheng, 67, formerly governor and deputy secretary of the Communist Party in Guangxi autonomous region in southern China, was brought to Beijing in 1998 by Li Peng, chairman of the National People's Congress, to serve as one of several vice chairmen. He is also a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party.

Another former deputy party secretary in Guangxi was recently given a life sentence, while the former party chief of a major city in that region was sentenced to death on apparently related bribery and corruption charges. "Everyone is equal before the law and whoever violates the law will be punished," said Zeng Jianhui, spokesman for the People's Congress, at the news briefing today.

The disclosure of several high-level corruption cases has caused tensions within the government. By some reports, the former deputy governor of Jiangxi province in southern China, already sentenced to death for accepting bribes, will soon be executed to set an example. But Beijing still has made no public announcement about what appears to be the biggest case of all, a smuggling scandal in Fujian province that has lead to the arrest or flight of numerous party, customs and police officials.

As the National People's Congress prepared to convene on Sunday in the Great Hall of the People, security around the hall and in adjacent Tiananmen Square was unusually tight and several foreign journalists were followed by security agents. In the last two days, at least 16 members of the outlawed Falun Gong spiritual movement have been arrested in the square as they tried to unfurl banners.

The government has intensified its crackdown on a similar healing sect with millions of followers and a charismatic leader, according to the Hong Kong-based Information Center of Human Rights and Democratic Movement. Zhang Hongbao, the founder in 1988 of the Zhong Gong movement, is on the run from the police, the center said, while hundreds of leaders of the group have been detained.


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