Officials in scandal-plagued Chinese province Sichuan have 'turned over new leaf'

China’s former security czar Zhou Yongkang at his former university on Oct 1, 2013.
China’s former security czar Zhou Yongkang at his former university on Oct 1, 2013.PHOTO: CHINA UNIVERSITY OF PETROLEUM

BEIJING (REUTERS) - A corruption purge connected to disgraced former public security chief Zhou Yongkang has been highly effective and officials have turned over a new leaf, the top official in China's scandal-ridden south-western province of Sichuan said on Tuesday (March 8).

Populous Sichuan has emerged as a focus of President Xi Jinping's crackdown against deep-seated corruption as it was a power base for Zhou, who was Communist Party boss there from 1999-2002.

Zhou was jailed for life for graft last year, and dozens of his associates have also been arrested, many in Sichuan.

"Sichuan has been an important battlefield for the fight against corruption. Especially in the light of the negative influences created by Zhou's case, the political atmosphere of the past few years has had many problems," Sichuan's current party boss, Wang Dongming, said.

"In this situation, we resolutely upheld the party centre's measures, had a clear-cut stance on punishing corruption, resolutely and forcefully refreshed the local administration and achieved obvious results," he said on the sidelines of China's annual meeting of parliament.

Sichuan, famous for its spicy cuisine, has significantly reduced graft and re-emerged as a centre of new "energy" and "creativity", he added. "Right now, a good political environment has already taken shape. It is absolutely free from corruption and it advocates an honest pragmatism."

Wang said the number of reported corruption cases in Sichuan fell by over 30 per cent in 2015, pointing to the fact that provincial officials were not just making "idle talk".

Sichuan would continue to take preventative measures to ensure no corruption prevails in its system, including in 10 areas such as contract bidding and the use of financial funds, he said.

Officials continue to fall in Sichuan.

Last month, China's main anti-corruption watchdog said it had formally begun an investigation into Sichuan's former governor, Wei Hong, accusing him of serious "discipline violations", the common official euphemism for graft.

Wei had spent virtually his entire career in Sichuan, according to his official resume, and was party chief in the second-tier city of Ya'an during Zhou's tenure in the province.