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China rail scandal nets new suspect

AFP-JIJI

A businesswoman linked to China’s disgraced Railway Minister Liu Zhijun faces charges of illegal business activities worth 180 billion yuan ($29 billion), state-run media said Monday, indicating far vaster industry corruption than previously revealed.

Ding Shumiao will face trial in Beijing for bribery and illegal business activities after she “intervened in bidding for dozens of railway projects,” the China Daily reported, citing prosecutors.

The scale of the charges is larger than anything prosecutors have previously linked to corruption associated with the railway sector in China, where the high-speed network, now the world’s longest, has been a flagship development project of the ruling Communist Party.

Liu was given a suspended death sentence in July for accepting 64.6 million yuan in bribes to help 11 people secure contracts and promotions.

The China Daily said Ding was accused of giving Liu more than 49 million yuan and arranging sexual favors for him, while Liu helped 23 businesses recommended by her to win contracts for more than 50 rail projects, the China Daily said.

The alleged total in inappropriate activities was equivalent to a quarter of China’s entire national railway investment in 2010, it added.

Liu was fired in 2011 after eight years in the post and being celebrated as the “father” of China’s vastly expanded rail network.

In March the Railways Ministry was disbanded, with its administrative functions handed to the Transport Ministry and its commercial role given to the new China Railway Corp.

Last week a top rail official, Zhang Shuguang, was charged with accepting bribes worth 47 million yuan over 11 years, while another senior figure, Su Shunhu, stood trial for allegedly receiving 24 million yuan in bribes.

Guangzhou labor camps

BEIJING AFP-
JIJI

The major Chinese city of Guangzhou will empty its hard-labor camps by year’s end, state-run media said Monday, as some localities phase out the unpopular punishment.

Critics say “re-education through labor”, known as “laojiao” and which lets police issue sentences of up to four years without a trial, is open to abuse.

Some cities or provinces are moving away from laojiao while Premier Li Keqiang in March promised some reforms this year, although concrete nationwide steps have yet to be announced.

“All (100 or so) detainees in Guangzhou labor camps will have completed their sentences and be released by the end of the year,” the China Daily reported, citing a senior judge in the southern city. Guangzhou is the capital of Guangdong province, which stopped taking new re-education through labor cases in March, it added.

In February the southwestern province of Yunnan said it will no longer send people to labor camps for three types of political offenses.

The laojiao system was set up in the 1950s and targets often include anti-government petitioners, drug users and other minor offenders. A 2009 United Nations report estimated that 190,000 Chinese were locked up in such facilities.