Head of China's statistics bureau Wang Baoan probed for corruption

Wang Baoan, Director of the National Bureau of Statistics in China, is being probed for corruption.
Wang Baoan, Director of the National Bureau of Statistics in China, is being probed for corruption.PHOTO: EPA

BEIJING (AFP, REUTERS) - The head of China's statistics bureau, responsible for calculating the country's economic figures, is being probed for corruption, a watchdog said on Tuesday (Jan 26), the latest target of a high-level anti-graft drive.

"Wang Baoan is suspected of severe disciplinary violations, he is currently under investigation," the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection said in a one-line statement on its website, using a phrase that normally refers to corruption.

The announcement came just hours after Wang appeared at a press briefing in Beijing on China's economy in 2015.

Last week the National Bureau of Statistics released data that showed China's economy grew at the slowest pace in 25 years.

Wang reiterated on Tuesday that the country's gross domestic product calculations were reliable, Chinese media reported, despite widespread criticism of the data.

Questions have repeatedly been raised about the accuracy of official Chinese economic statistics, which critics say can be subject to political manipulation.

Wang was appointed head of the National Bureau of Statistics in April of last year. He previously spent about 17 years in various positions in the finance ministry, including as vice-minister.

Official allegations of graft against high-level politicians are generally followed by an internal probe by China's Communist Party, and sometimes lead to criminal proceedings almost guaranteed to end in conviction.

Internal investigations into high-level party officials operate without judicial oversight. Once announced, they are likely to lead to a sacking followed by criminal prosecution and jail sentence.

Authorities have been pursuing a hard-hitting campaign against allegedly crooked officials since President Xi Jinping took office in 2013, a crusade that some experts have called a political purge.

Meanwhile on Tuesday, the former chairman of Chinese brokerage Changjiang Securities died after falling from an apartment building in an apparent suicide, Xinhua state news agency said, weeks after he was removed from his post amid a probe into "discipline violations".

Yang Zezhu was being investigated by the Communist Party's anti-corruption agency, the company said on Jan 6. It couldn't be reached for comment on Tuesday.

Police in Wuhan, capital of Hubei province where the brokerage was based, said they found a suicide note left by Yang who fell from a 12th floor apartment, Xinhua said.

Changjiang is the latest Chinese brokerage to be targeted by the anti-graft body. Several senior executives at rival CITIC Securities have been investigated for possible breaches of the law.

Yang was previously head of the provincial state-owned assets supervision and administration commission before taking up the post at Changjiang Securities in December 2013.