China ruling party expels official for graft

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

BEIJING (AP) — China's ruling Communists have expelled the former party head of the southern city of Guangzhou over graft allegations, amid a wide-ranging campaign to reduce waste and rehabilitate the party's reputation as corrupt and out of touch.

The party's disciplinary body said Thursday that Wan Qinglian was being referred for criminal prosecution on accusations of having demanded and received a "gigantic amount" of bribes.

In addition, he abused his office to benefit others and visited expensive private clubs on multiple occasions in violation of party rules against corruption and extravagance, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection said in a notice on its website.

Wan, 50, was known as a political high-flyer in China's industrial heartland of Guangdong province, of which Guangzhou is the capital. Starting as the head of a poor county, he rose through the ranks to gain entry on the national party's influential Central Committee as an alternate member.

Word of his expulsion came as results were announced from the 15-month anti-graft austerity drive that has sent shockwaves through the 86.7 million-member ruling party.

The party said more than 74,000 of its members have been punished for extravagance during the campaign that ended in September, and 162,629 "phantom staff" — those who collected salaries and benefits without showing up for work — cut from the government payroll.

More than 114,000 unauthorized luxury vehicles were seized, work halted on 2,580 unnecessary government buildings, and 96,000 official overseas junkets canceled, the party said.

Led from the top by president and party leader Xi Jinping, the campaign has already radically reduced spending on entertainment, fancy office buildings and pricey vehicles, leading to economic hardship for some, especially restaurants and hotels used to officials paying with public money.

As a warning to the rank-and-file, Xi has taken down several high-profile targets once considered untouchable, including a former member of the all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee.

Xi has also campaigned against overly bureaucratic practices, and the party said 586,000 fewer meetings were held, and 1.9 million fewer documents issued during the campaign compared to the previous 15 months.

The party warns that corruption is the biggest threat to its 65-year iron grip on power in China, although it flatly refuses to accept independent supervision.