Former Railways Chief Stands Trial for Graft

Liu Zhijun, China’s former Minister of Railways, was removed from his post in February of 2011. After a lengthy investigation, Liu was formally charged with corruption, malpractice, and abuse of power in April of this year. On Sunday, Liu’s graft trial opened at Beijing No 2 Intermediate People’s Court. Reuters reports:

China’s former railways minister, Liu Zhijun, went on trial on Sunday charged with corruption and abuse of power, state media said, in a case demonstrating President Xi Jinping’s resolve to crack down on pervasive graft.

State radio said the trial had begun at a Beijing courthouse under heavy security. If found guilty, he could face the death penalty or life in jail.

[…]He took advantage of his position and helped 11 people to either get promotions or win contracts, accepting 64.6 million yuan ($10.53 million) in bribes from them in return between 1986 and 2011, the official Xinhua news agency reported. [Source]

State media broadcasts of the trial [zh] show Liu answering questions before the court as evidence is displayed on a projection screen overhead. The South China Morning Post notes prosecutors’ uncharacteristic suggestion for a lenient sentence, and the concerns of a human rights lawyer that the verdict will come by the will of party leadership rather than by the rule of law:

The hearing was unusual as Qian Lieyang, Liu’s lawyer, said the prosecutors had proactively suggested a more lenient sentence to the former railways minister during the trial because Liu had confessed all his crimes during the detention and helped to recover most of the corrupted money.

“The prosecutors asked the judges to give a leniency to Liu even before I asked for it,” said Qian, who told the South China Morning Post on Friday that he would be pleading for a “more lenient sentence”.

[…]“I’m fairly disappointed as it is a fake trial as usual,” said Pu Zhiqiang, a prominent Beijing-based human rights lawyer. “No doubt the court and the procuratorate had the endorsement of the party’s disciplinary authorities, and will announce the verdict based on the willingness of the leaders but not the law.”

He also questioned why the hearing took just under half a day to process, despite the complexity of the case. [Source]

The Morning Post also notes that Liu is the highest-level official to stand in such a trial since Chen Liangyu, the former Shanghai party chief who was sentenced to 18 years for corruption charges in 2008.

Liu’s trial comes as China’s new leadership is in the midst of cracking-down on corruption in all levels of the party.  Part of government moves to battle corruption include government restructuring plans, and it was announced earlier this year that the Ministry of Railways would be split into administrative and managerial arms. While China boasts the world’s largest and busiest high-speed rail network, corruption has long been noted within its governing ministry. For a detailed account of how the July 2011 Wenzhou train crash revealed the railway network as “an ecosystem almost perfectly hospitable to corruption,” see Evan Osnos’ report in the New Yorker (via CDT). Also see Caixin on Liu and the ministry’s “complicated web of graft” (also via CDT).


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