China executes official for child rapes after online uproar

BEIJING (REUTERS) - Authorities in central China executed a former Communist Party official for raping 11 underage girls, state media said on Wednesday, following an online uproar about the latest case of abuse of power.

Li Xingong, who was the party's deputy head in Yongcheng city in Henan province, was found guilty of assaulting the girls during police interrogations starting from the second half of 2011, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

Li appealed against the guilty verdict, but was rejected by the Supreme Court, Xinhua said.

The case was widely discussed on Weibo, China's popular Twitter-like microblogging site, after reports about the rapes naming Li as the perpetrator began circulating online in May last year.

"Yet another great example of a party cadre," wrote one Weibo user sarcastically after the execution was announced.

"What is wrong with the party that they have animals like this in their ranks? There needs to be discussion about how to better select officials," wrote another.

While the government has encouraged people to take to the internet to expose corruption and abuse of power, especially at the grassroots, it generally keeps tight rein on what can be said about similar problems with more senior officials.

After briefly allowing free online discussion following the sacking in March last year of former Chongqing party boss Bo Xilai and the naming of his wife as a suspect in the murder of a British businessman, censors moved to block the topic.

The ruling Communist Party has long pushed to eradicate corruption, underscoring a broader fear that, if left unchecked, the problem could hurt the legitimacy of one-party rule and perhaps threaten its survival.

Newly appointed President Xi Jinping has vowed to make the fight against graft and abuse of power a key policy platform, but has made little apparent progress, with few senior officials being probed and no movement towards establishing an independent anti-corruption body.

Xi this week reminded officials of the need for a "thorough cleanup of undesirable work styles such as formalism, bureaucratism, hedonism and extravagance", state media reported on Wednesday.

"These four forms of decadence are the problems most hated, and complained of, by the people, severely damaging relations between the party and ordinary people," Xi was quoted as saying.

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