China targets Xinhua news agency, Commerce Ministry in new graft probe

BEIJING (REUTERS) - China has sent investigators to six more provinces and four government departments, including Xinhua news agency and the Commerce Ministry, the ruling Communist Party's corruption watchdog said on Monday, in the latest move to tackle graft.

The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) has also dispatched inspectors to the southern economic powerhouse of Guangdong, coal-rich Shanxi province, the southwestern province of Yunnan, the Ministry of Land and Resources and the state-owned Three Gorges Corporation power company, the watchdog said in a statement on its website.

The first round began in May and the government issued preliminary findings in late September, though few details have seeped out to date.

"My speculation is that this round will be harsher than the first round," said Dr Wang Yuhua, a corruption expert and associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania.

"Wang Qishan has gained more support from other senior leaders, and this time it will be serious," he added, referring to the party's anti-corruption chief.

Each inspection team has given out a contact number and set up a post office box so the public can tip them off.

Since taking office in March, President Xi Jinping has called corruption a threat to the party's survival and vowed to go after powerful "tigers" as well as lowly "flies".

Authorities have already announced the investigation or arrest of a handful of senior officials. Among them, former executives from oil giant PetroChina are being investigated in what appears to be the biggest graft probe into a state-run firm in years.

The May probes targeted five regions and five departments, including the poor southern province of Guizhou, the southeastern province of Jiangxi and coal-rich Inner Mongolia, as well as the state-owned China Grain Reserves Corporation and the China Publishing Group Corp.

The party has so far given few details of the outcome of the first round of investigations, in line with its secretive nature, though the anti-corruption watchdog publishes website reports of a steady stream of minor officials being probed.

Corruption is expected to be discussed at a key conclave being convened by the party in Beijing from November 9-12, known as the Third Plenum, though economic reform issues are likely to dominate.

Xinhua reported over the weekend that the meeting might include a new unspecified "anti-corruption mechanism", but the report provided no details.

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