11/25/2008, 00.00
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Government officials arrested: Beijing powerless against corruption

Economic growth has benefited the corrupt politicians and businessmen. This is the opinion of experts, in the face of continued serious corruption cases. A former parliamentarian and torchbearer, and a "model" businesswoman, has been arrested. As has the second richest man in the country.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) - China is unable to uproot the endemic corruption among politicians and businessmen (who are often one and the same), which is estimated to cost the equivalent of 3% of gross domestic product each year. Chang Wu-ueh, a professor at Tamkang University in Taipei, says that Beijing "understands very well that the main beneficiaries of its economic progress are government officials."

Xie Bing, president of the Sichuan Hantang Corp., repeatedly praised as a model businesswoman and a rising political star, has been arrested for embezzlement. Xie, of humble origins, became a member of the National People's Assembly (from which she was expelled on October 28), and was one of the Chinese torchbearers. She is accused of embezzling hundreds of millions of yuan in public money, and of taking money collected from small investors with the promise of high interest. Her husband was arrested in August.

A few days ago, Huang Guangyu (in the photo) was arrested. Huang is the second richest man in China, with a fortune estimated at 18.4 billion yuan (approximately 1.84 billion euros). He was arrested for illegal speculation, and for the manipulation of stock prices. Having begun with a small store, he is the owner of Gome Electrical Appliances Holding, a leader in the sales of electronic equipment, with more than 1,200 stores and 200,000 employees, and revenue of 6 billion dollars in 2007.

In June, Beijing announced zero-tolerance on corruption, warning that this must be uprooted for "the popularity and survival of the communist party." But serious cases continue to emerge: last week, two former directors of the communist party in Chenzhou were condemned to death for corruption. Yesterday, Beijing announced closer scrutiny of the use of public funds.

Corruption is also being discussed in the collapse, two weeks ago, of a tunnel for the metro line being built in Hangzhou (Zhejiang), which killed 21 workers. Now, mayor Cai Qi has ordered strict control of all projects related to the metro line.

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