High-ranking Chinese official Jiang Jiemin goes on trial for graft

BEIJING (AFP) - China's former state assets chief Jiang Jiemin went on trial for corruption on Monday, one of the highest-ranking figures to fall in the country's much-publicised anti-graft drive and an ally of ex-security chief Zhou Yongkang.

Jiang's trial opened at the Hanjiang Intermediate People's Court in the central province of Hubei, it said on its Sina Weibo microblog.

He is accused of bribery and abuse of power, the court said.

Jiang worked for decades in China's petroleum industry and rose to become chairman of China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC), the country's biggest oil producer.

He has links going back to the 1980s with Zhou Yongkang, a former CNPC chief himself who went on to become China's hugely powerful internal security chief but was charged with bribery and abuse of power earlier this month.

Jiang was tapped in March 2013 to run the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (SASAC), which oversees China's many powerful state-owned enterprises.

But less than six months later, the ruling Communist Party's internal watchdog announced that it was probing him for alleged "serious disciplinary violations," a euphemism for official corruption.

According to state-run media, the move marked the first investigation of a member of the party's powerful Central Committee, which has about 200 members.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, who took office two years ago, has vowed to oust corrupt officials all the way from low-level "flies" to high-ranking "tigers" amid fears that graft could threaten the party's hold on power.

But critics note that China has failed to implement institutional safeguards against graft, such as public asset disclosure, an independent judiciary, and free media, leaving the effort open to being used for political faction-fighting.

Chinese courts are closely controlled by the ruling party and a guilty verdict is effectively a certainty.

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