China to prosecute former deputy environment minister for graft

BEIJING (Reuters) - The Chinese authorities will prosecute a former deputy environment minister for corruption after a probe by the ruling Communist Party found he abused his power and took bribes, the party's anti-graft watchdog said on Thursday (Dec 31).

The investigation into Mr Zhang Lijun, who served in his position between 2008 and 2013, began in July.

While in office, he took gifts in exchange for promotions, abused his position for the business interests of family members and of unnamed companies, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection said in a short statement.

He has been expelled from the party and his case handed over to legal authorities, it said, meaning he will face prosecution.

Chinese courts are controlled by the party and will not challenge its accusations.

It was not possible to reach Mr Zhang for comment and it was unclear if he has a lawyer.

Environmental degradation is a sensitive topic in China, with thousands of protests sparked every year by concerns about pollution, particularly from factories.

In February, the Environment Ministry was reprimanded by the graft watchdog for problems including interference by ministry officials and their relatives in environmental impact assessments.

Since assuming office three years ago, President Xi Jinping has launched a war against deep-seated corruption, waging a campaign that has brought down numerous senior officials, including former security tsar Zhou Yongkang.