07/27/2007, 00.00
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Trial against Chen, former Party Chief in Shanghai, announced.

He is accused of appropriating public funds and corruption, as well as immorality and of having 11 lovers. He risks the death sentence. Experts: the trial is the latest in a series of attacks on the Shanghai group of former president Jiang Zemin. It could take place just before the next CP congress.

Shanghai (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Former Shanghai party secretary Chen Liangyu will be prosecuted for the embezzlement of more than 3 billion yuan from Shanghai's pension fund. Chen's removal is widely viewed by experts as a way for President Hu Jintao to eliminate a key member of the powerful "Shanghai Gang" of political leaders who come from the city, including former president Jiang Zemin.

Besides misappropriation of the pension fund, Chen is also accused of accepting bribes in the approval of projects, funding, investment co-operation and land planning. He also is accused of allowing private companies to buy shares in state firms, causing loss of assets. State television and the Xinhua news agency, reported the news going as far as to describe Chen’s “moral degeneration” and obsession with sex and power attributing 11 lovers to him, resulting in “grave damage to State interests to the people and to the image of the Communist Party”.

His fall from grace comes under the moves by President Hu Jintao to eliminate the power of the “Shanghai Gang”, ahead of this autumn’s congress. More than 20 government and state company officials have been implicated. Hu proclaims that fighting corruption is among his principal objectives.  This is also why Analysts say he could face a long prison term or even the death penalty given the amount of money involved. The central government this month executed the former head of its food and drug administration, Zheng Xiaoyu, for accepting bribes in return for granting approvals, amid international criticism of the mainland's product safety.

The announcement puts to an end all speculation that Chen may have avoided trial following his dismissal from all of his public posts.  In fact often Beijing does not incriminate dishonest public officials, opting instead to discipline them.  He is the highest ranking official to have been accused of corruption in over 10 years.




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