Chinese province says ends corruption "cancer"

Chinese flags flutter at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China on May 13, 2017.
Chinese flags flutter at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China on May 13, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (REUTERS) - A Chinese province whose corruption problem was once likened to cancer has turned over a new leaf, like the spring rain blowing away smog, its top official wrote in the country's leading newspaper on Thursday (Aug 10).

The coal-rich northern province of Shanxi had developed a reputation as one of China's most graft-plagued, with a web of Shanxi-connected officials jailed, the most senior of which has been Ling Jihua, once a top aide to former president Hu Jintao.

In 2015, Vice Premier Ma Kai described the corruption problem in Shanxi as "like a cancer".

Writing in the ruling Communist Party's People's Daily, Shanxi party boss Luo Huining said the province had been ardently following instructions from President Xi Jinping to clean up the mess. "All the province's people have deeply felt that the all-out efforts to enforce party discipline have been like spring rain washing away the smog," Luo wrote. "Shanxi has gone from being a victim of a regression in its political environment to being a beneficiary of all-out efforts to enforce party discipline," he added.

Shanxi party leaders have learned a "bitter lesson" from the systemic corruption problem of the past few years, Luo wrote. "We have the resolve to make quick decisions as the situation demands to punish corruption." However some problems remain, he admitted. "Some grassroots issues have not been completely resolved, and new issues and new problems continue to come to the surface." Shanxi, as one of China's top coal producing provinces, has seen its economy boom on the back of soaring energy demand over the past decade, one of the reasons state media has given for its corruption problem.

At one point in 2015, action against corrupt officials in the province left the government with some 300 jobs to fill, and Shanxi's then-party chief last year described parts of the province as being like "disaster areas".

President Xi has vowed to take down high-flying "tigers" as well as lowly "flies" in his war against pervasive graft, warning, as others have before, the problem is so bad it could affect the party's grip on power.