10/07/2008, 00.00
CHINA
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Communist party Politburo member kicked out for corruption

Yu Youjun, appointed to the central committee in October 2007, has been stripped of all official standing because of corruption when he was mayor of Shenzhen. Beijing is unable to overcome the frequent episodes of corruption among local officials, often connected to big business.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Yu Youjun (in the photo), head of the culture ministry and a rising star in Chinese politics, has been removed from office because of his presumed involvement in at least two cases of corruption going back to 2002 and 2003, when he was mayor of Shenzhen. The instances of corruption have been verified by the central commission of the communist party for disciplinary inspection.

Although there has been no official announcement, Yu's name disappeared yesterday from the ministry's website. It appears that he has also been stripped of his seat on the communist party's central committee, which will meet in two days, and from all other offices. Confidential sources, however, say that he has been able to remain a member of the communist party, and that he will not be charged with any crimes.

Unconfirmed reports say that he received money from a large company in Shenzhen in exchange for favoring it, and that he also took bribes to grant land rights, possibly together with his younger brother, who was arrested months ago.

Yu Youjun, 55, governor of Shanxi, where he was extensively involved in improving the standard of living, has long been held to be a capable official with a promising future, in part because of his relatively young age. But he was impacted by the scandal of slave labor in the brick factories in 2007, when he had to present public apologies because of the lack of oversight.

Corruption remains widespread in the communist party, in spite of repeated promises of the leaders to eliminate it. It is especially local officials who are under accusation, for violating the rights of the population, counting on impunity because of their position and the difficulty that citizens have in being heard by the higher authorities. Just yesterday, Beijing began investigations over the landslide that on August 1 engulfed the village of Sigou in the county of Loufan, Shanxi, leaving at least 44 dead. Preliminary investigations say that waste from the iron mine was stored just above the homes (although the law requires a distance of at least 500 meters, and an adequate containment barrier), in such a large quantity that it could not be held back by the fences. A previous slide had happened in April, but no countermeasures were taken. Experts comment that they are waiting to see if the government will prosecute the owner and operators of the mine, and the local authorities charged with ensuring safety. But a source for the South China Morning Post newspaper comments that "The boss of an important state-owned enterprise is more difficult to sack than a governor. Without some big guanxi [connections] in Beijing, they cannot get the position, and once there, they have a lot of money to cement it."

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