China arrests university official in new graft crackdown

BEIJING (REUTERS) - China has arrested a vice president of a prestigious university for suspected corruption, state news agency Xinhua reported on Wednesday, as the government turns its anti-graft campaign to the education sector.

President Xi Jinping has launched a sweeping crackdown on corruption since taking power, pursuing high-flying "tigers" as well as lowly "flies" in the government, military, state-owned enterprises, and now in universities.

Xinhua said on its official microblog that Chu Jian, appointed in 2005 as vice president of Zhejiang University in the eastern city of Hangzhou, had been arrested for "suspected economic problems", a euphemism for corruption.

Chu, an engineering professor, was in charge of several businesses run by the university, and also ran a technology company based in Hangzhou, according to the university's website.

Reuters was unable to reach Chu for comment and the university's news office said it was unable to comment when contacted by telephone. Xinhua provided no other details of the crimes he is suspected of.

Last week, An Xiaoyu, vice president of Sichuan University in the southwest, was placed under investigated for suspected serious discipline violations, another official euphemism for corruption. An was responsible for the university's infrastructure construction.

Last month, authorities began investigating Cai Rongsheng, the head of admissions at Beijing's elite Renmin University, also for suspected corruption.

A lack of transparency and checks on administrative power in public universities, which depend heavily on government funding, has led to widespread corruption in areas such as building projects, research funds and the admission process.

Another professor at Zhejiang University went on trial in March for embezzling more than 10 million yuan (S$2.08 million) of research funding by fabricating receipts and contracts. He has yet to be sentenced.

China invested more than a trillion yuan in research and development last year, more than half of which came from the government. However, a survey by the China Association for Science and Technology showed that only 40 percent of research funding was spent on research projects, while the rest was wasted elsewhere, according to Xinhua.

Domestic media has also pointed to corruption in the admission process, particularly in connection with a special programme whereby universities conduct their own tests to select students, rather than looking at scores from the annual national college entrance exam.

Renmin University said on Tuesday that it had temporarily halted that scheme, known formally as the "autonomous enrolment programme".

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