China puts Shanghai vice-mayor and director of free trade zone under investigation

Chinese authorities are investigating Mr Ai Baojun, a director of the Shanghai Free Trade Zone (pictured), on suspicion of corruption.
Chinese authorities are investigating Mr Ai Baojun, a director of the Shanghai Free Trade Zone (pictured), on suspicion of corruption.PHOTO: REUTERS

SHANGHAI (AFP) - The Chinese authorities said on Tuesday (Nov 10) that a director of the Shanghai free-trade zone (FTZ) had been put under investigation for "severe disciplinary violations", a phrase which typically refers to corruption.

In a statement on its website, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection - the Communist Party's corruption watchdog - gave no further details of the case involving Mr Ai Baojun, 55, who is also a vice-mayor of the commercial hub.

Mr Ai holds the title of director of the Shanghai FTZ, according to his official biography. He has been one of several Shanghai vice mayors since 2007, holding the portfolio for development and planning, it said.

China set up the Shanghai FTZ in September 2013, promising a range of financial reforms, though foreign companies have been disappointed with the pace of change.

Mr Ai is not the first government official involved with the zone to run afoul of the authorities.

The authorities have said that Mr Dai Haibo, previously Communist Party chief and executive deputy director of the FTZ, was under investigation for "severe" violations of discipline and the law.

Mr Dai was the public face of the trade zone, appearing at news conferences, meeting foreign delegations and running the zone's administration on a day-to-day basis.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has launched a much-publicised drive against corruption after he came to power more two years ago, vowing to target both high-level "tigers" and low-ranking "flies".

There has been speculation over whether Mr Xi might target Shanghai, where he was the city's party chief on his rise to the top post.