China railway minister dismissed amid graft probe
BEIJING – China's railway minister was dismissed Friday, following reports that he was being investigated by the Communist Party's corruption watchdog.
Liu Zhijun had been head of the railway ministry since 2003. He was stripped of his title as Communist Party chief for the ministry earlier this month after coming under investigation for "severe violations of discipline," earlier state media reports said.
The Standing Committee of China's legislature decided Friday to replace him as minister as well, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. No specific details of Liu's alleged wrongdoing have been made public so far.
Ministerial-level officials in China are rarely targeted in corruption crackdowns, and the investigation of Liu could be especially damaging to the party's credibility.
The government has made huge investments in high-speed rail projects.
The country's leadership has been trying to stamp out corruption — a major source of public distrust and anger — with President Hu Jintao saying in a speech to the party's graft watchdog earlier this year that the situation was "grave" and would require long-term efforts.
Last year, China punished 146,517 officials for corruption. Among them were 5,098 officials at the county level or higher.