China investigates senior Xinjiang security official for graft

BEIJING (REUTERS) - Prosecutors have begun an investigation into a former senior security official in China's unruly far western region of Xinjiang for suspected abuse of power and corruption, the government said on Monday.

Li Yanming had been Communist Party chief of the Xinjiang Police College, which trains public security officials, and a member of the region's Public Security Department until the party opened the investigation in May.

The Supreme People's Procuratorate said in a statement on its website that Li had been put under "compulsory measures", which normally means detention, while it prepares its case against him.

Li is suspected of abusing his position and taking bribes, the prosecutor said, without providing other details.

President Xi Jinping has pushed a sweeping crackdown on corruption since taking power two years ago. Xi, like others before him, warned that the problem is so severe it could affect the party's ability to maintain power.

Xinjiang, home to the Muslim Uighur people, has been beset by violence for years, blamed by the government on Islamist extremists who want an independent state called East Turkestan.

Rights groups and exiles say the problem is more to do with Beijing's harsh restrictions on the Uighur people's religious and cultural customs and doubt the existence of a cohesive group fighting the government.

Last week, 15 people were killed in the latest bout of unrest in Xinjiang.

The energy-rich region, which sits strategically on the borders of Pakistan, India, Afghanistan and Central Asia, has not been as much a focus of the government's graft crackdown as other parts of China.

In October, the ethnic Uighur mayor of Hotan, a major city in the heavily Uighur south of Xinjiang, was put under investigation for corruption, one of the few ethnic minorities caught up in Xi's campaign.