China's corruption drive extends to provinces

BEIJING (REUTERS) - China's anti-corruption watchdog said it had uncovered abuses at several provincial governments and state-owned enterprises, in the latest sign of an expanding crackdown on graft.

Since taking office in March, Chinese President Xi Jinping has called corruption a threat to the ruling Communist 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.

Taskforces working since May had found mismanagement and corruption in Jiangxi, Hubei and Guizhou provinces, along with the sprawling western city of Chongqing, the party's Central Committee for Discipline Inspection said in a statement published on its website late on Thursday.

The statement gave no details on individuals or specific crimes, but noted cases of widespread graft and abuse of power.

Corruption was also found at state-owned enterprises China Grain Reserves Corporation and the China Publishing Group Corp.

The Commission also sent an inspection team to the Ministry of Water Resources, where it said supervision of anti-corruption initiatives was "weak".

In the poor southern province of Guizhou, a small number of officials had engaged in "trading power for money" and the probe had uncovered a high incidence of corruption in construction projects, land transfers and mineral extraction.

In south-eastern Jiangxi province, some leaders and their relatives had "meddled" in construction projects, sought personal gain and received kickbacks, the statement said.

In Chongqing - once run by former politician Bo Xilai, jailed for life this month for a range of crimes including graft - a probe revealed "hidden corruption dangers" at state-owned businesses.

China has announced corruption crackdowns before that have met with little success, but the latest campaign appears to have more bite than usual.

State media have also reported that Chinese military officials will face audits before they can retire or get promotions, although a lack of transparency could limit the effectiveness of those measures.

Experts say only deep and difficult political reforms will have a lasting impact on curbing corruption.

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