Padded cells and soft spoons await China graft suspects

BEIJING (Reuters) - Padded cells to prevent suicide and soft spoons that cannot be made into weapons await officials suspected of corruption in one holding centre in southwestern China, in unusual images of China's graft fight carried by a state-run newspaper this week.

Since taking office three years ago, Chinese President Xi Jinping has embarked on a massive campaign to root out deeply ingrained corruption, warning, like others before him, that the problem could threaten the Communist Party's grip on power.

While dozens of senior officials have been felled and hundreds more junior ones punished, some aspects of the purge have remained shrouded in mystery, including the site where suspects are held once become subjects of an investigation.

In Ziyang in Sichuan province, suspects can expect relative luxury in a low-rise building surrounded by greenery, according to pictures published on Monday (Dec 14) by the West China Metropolitan Daily that have since gone viral on other Chinese news sites.

The structure has played host to 11 suspects so far, including senior provincial officials suspected of bribery, the newspaper added.

A menu is written up on a chalkboard every day, but no fish is served lest the suspects choke to death on fish bones, sharp bones are removed from poultry and no chopsticks are allowed, in case they are used as weapons, the paper said.

"Walls are padded to prevent suicide," it added, referring to the problem of officials who kill themselves rather than face the shame of a corruption probe.

The facility tries to do what it can to make the suspects comfortable, said Ziyang law enforcement official Li Changan.

"Before a court has made a judgement, they are suspects of crimes," Li said. "As long as they have rational requests, we'll do what we can to satisfy them."