China probes top economy official for 'disciplinary violations'

File photo: Liu Tienan Mr Liu is a top official at the body responsible for planning China's economy

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China has launched an investigation into a senior economic policymaker for corruption, state media report.

Liu Tienan, deputy head of the National Development and Reform Commission, is suspected of "serious disciplinary violations", Xinhua news agency says.

Allegations against Mr Liu first surfaced in December, when a well-known journalist accused him of corruption.

Action against him comes amid a high-profile anti-corruption drive initiated by new President Xi Jinping.

"Liu Tienan, a deputy director of the National Development and Reform Commission [NDRC], is being investigated over suspected serious disciplinary violations, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection of the Communist Party of China said Sunday [12 May]," state news agency Xinhua reported.

Analysis

What is unusual about this case is how it first came to light. A journalist from the respected Chinese magazine, Caijing, posted the allegations online last December.

Normally, allegations against senior officials are censored immediately. When, for example, the foreign media ran reports about wealth accumulated by the families of President Xi Jinping and former Premier Wen Jiabao, they were blocked online.

But the allegations about Liu Tienan remained online for months, which almost certainly suggests the decision not to remove them was sanctioned by the country's leadership.

Mr Liu is by no means a giant of Chinese politics, but he is senior enough for people to sit up and take note. Since taking power, Xi Jinping has frequently warned about the dangers corruption poses to Communist Party rule.

But critics say the only way to root out entrenched corruption is for greater transparency from top officials - something that China's leaders have shown no willingness to do.

Mr Liu, born in 1954, has been in his NDRC role - which oversees national economic planning - since 2008, Xinhua added. He was also head of China's energy administration, responsible for energy policy, until March.

No information concerning allegations against him was given.

Luo Changping, deputy editor of respected Caijing Magazine, first levelled allegations against Mr Liu in December.

On entries posted on weibo, China's version of Twitter, Mr Luo said the official was involved in questionable financial deals, fabricated his academic record and threatened to kill a former mistress.

In China, where media is heavily censored, these were bold accusations against a senior government official, says the BBC's Martin Patience in Beijing.

No timescale was given for the investigation into Mr Liu. But state-run Global Times said in an editorial that the announcement of the probe showed the power of the internet.

"Luo Changping's victory over Liu Tienan was achieved through the internet. This predicts that the focus of power of Chinese public opinion is further shifting to the internet," it said.

Since taking office, leader Xi Jinping has vowed to tackle corruption, warning that it threatens the Communist Party's grip on power.

This investigation will be seen as an attempt by China's new president to persuade a deeply sceptical public that he is serious about ending official abuse, our correspondent adds.

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