Li Chuncheng, the deputy party secretary of Sichuan, is the first high-level party official to be investigated for corruption under the new leadership of Xi Jinping. The New York Times reports:
The official, Li Chuncheng, 56, did not attend an important provincial Communist Party gathering on Tuesday and has not been seen in public since Nov. 19, the official Xinhua news agency said, without saying whether he had been detained. Although not on a career track that would be likely to take him to the highest echelons of the Chinese government, he was named at the party congress as one of 171 alternate members of the Central Committee; there are 205 full members.
Communist Party officials like Mr. Li face a sometimes harsh investigative process that is separate from the country’s judicial system, although party investigations can often lead to prosecution by the judiciary as well. Xinhua deleted its article about Mr. Li from its Web site early Wednesday afternoon, possibly a sign that public release of the announcement had not been fully vetted.
The investigation of Mr. Li comes as Xi Jinping, the new general secretary of the Communist Party, is trying to make an anticorruption campaign one of the first hallmarks of his tenure. Mr. Xi emphasized the fight against corruption in his inaugural address after taking office on Nov. 15, and in his first speech to the Politburo he warned that failing to act against corruption would “doom the party and the state.”
Reuters reports that official Chinese media announced the investigation before taking reports down:
Sichuan party authorities announced the investigation on Monday and Li did not appear as scheduled at a propaganda meeting on Tuesday, the media said.
However, by early afternoon the Youth Daily and Xinhua websites had deleted their reports on Li without explanation. Calls to the Sichuan government seeking comment went unanswered.
The South China Morning Post looks at Li’s background and political rise:
From the 1970s to 1998, Li spent most of his time in Harbin , Heilongjiang , first as a student and then in various positions, including deputy chief of the city’s branch of the Communist Youth League and deputy mayor.
He was appointed deputy mayor of Chengdu , Sichuan’s provincial capital, in 1998, and promoted to mayor in 2001. Four years later, he was named party chief of Chengdu. He became the province’s deputy party chief in September last year. He was regarded as a key architect of Chengdu’s building boom, and dismayed Premier Wen Jiabao with a vanity project in 2008, after the province was hit by a massive earthquake.
Staff began moving into a new city government headquarters, which reportedly cost more than US$176 million, following the earthquake. Wen visited the headquarters after travelling to the quake-hit area, but left “in disgust, having spent less than three minutes in it”, according to a US diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks last year.