China official dealing with Taiwan accused of bribery

BEIJING (REUTERS)- China's state prosecutor on Friday (Dec 30) formally accused a former deputy head of China's Taiwan Affairs Office with bribery and abuse of power, setting the stage for his trial.

Gong Qinggai was put under investigation by the ruling Communist Party in January. He is one of many officials targeted in an ongoing crackdown on corruption led by President Xi Jinping, but the case is particuarly sensitive because of Beijing's fraught relationship with Taiwan.

In a brief statement, the state prosecutor said Gong abused his power to "seek benefits for others" and illegally took large sums of money, meaning he will be prosecuted for bribery.

It said his suspected crimes took place while he held various government positions in the south-eastern Chinese province of Fujian, which lies just across the narrow strait that separates China and Taiwan.

In April, the party accused Gong of a variety of wrongdoing, including taking part in "superstitious activities", which usually refers to religious practices prohibited to party officials. The charge is often levelled at officials already under investigation for corruption.

Gong joined the Cabinet-level Taiwan Affairs Office, which is in charge of policy towards the island, in 2013, having previously spent his entire working career with the Fujian government, according to his official biography.

China considers Taiwan a renegade province to be brought under Beijing's control by force if needed. Defeated Kuomintang forces fled there in 1949 at the end of a Chinese civil war.

China has jailed dozens of senior officials since Mr Xi launched a sweeping campaign against graft after assuming office four years ago, vowing to go after powerful "tigers" as well as lowly "flies".

Mr Xi has said the corruption problem is so severe it could affect the party's grip on power.