China to prosecute two senior officials from Xinjiang over graft

BEIJING (REUTERS) - China's ruling Communist Party has expelled two senior officials in the violence-prone far western region of Xinjiang for corruption and transferred them to prosecutors, an anti-graft watchdog said.

China has jailed dozens of senior officials since President Xi Jinping launched a sweeping campaign against deep-seated graft after assuming office three years ago.

In June, authorities announced an investigation over serious discipline violations, a euphemism for corruption, into Alimjan Maimaitiming, 56, a former secretary general in the government of Xinjiang, home to many of China's ethnic Muslim Uighurs.

The violations were "extremely severe" and "gravely damaged party unity", the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) said on its website late on Sunday.

The suspected crimes ranged from "forming cliques and factions" and opposing investigation to transferring criminal proceeds, destroying evidence, abusing his power and having improper sexual relations, the watchdog said in its statement.

Alimjan Maimaitiming's official biography says he is from Cherchen, also known by its Chinese name of Qiemo, in the heavily Uighur deep south of Xinjiang. He was previously editor-in-chief of the official Xinjiang Daily.

Also transferred to prosecutors, the anti-graft watchdog said in a separate statement, was the case of Xie Hui, who ran the Xinjiang prison system from 2010 until his promotion in 2013 to be a vice head of the Xinjiang public security bureau.

Xie, 53, who was put under investigation in July, seriously violated party discipline and rules for the appointment of officials, besides abusing his power, and receiving "huge sums"from undetermined sources, it said.

Hundreds have died in recent years in unrest in Xinjiang, blamed by the government on Islamist militants who want to establish an independent state called East Turkestan.

However, many rights groups and foreign experts say the root cause of the problems is unhappiness among Uighurs over controls on their religion and culture.

China denies any repression in Xinjiang, a resource-rich region on the borders of Central Asia, and says it faces a very real terrorist threat.