BEIJING (AP) — The corruption watchdog inside China's Communist Party is investigating a former provincial vice governor, making him the latest senior official to come under scrutiny in the new leadership's campaign against corruption, state media said Tuesday.
The official Xinhua News Agency said that Ni Fake (pronounced NEE Fah-Kuh) was being investigated for "suspected serious disciplinary offenses." No further details were given, but such announcements typically indicate that the party official has been taken into custody.
The investigation was announced as official Chinese media have intensified coverage of the Communist Party's latest efforts to stem corruption, a major source of public anger that threatens the party's legitimacy.
"Corruption is a malignant tumor on society, if the graft problem is allowed to become ever more critical, it will certainly lead to the death of the party and of the nation," said the official China Discipline and Inspection Daily newspaper in a commentary Tuesday hailing new party leader Xi Jinping's resolve to fight graft.
According to his official resume, Ni was promoted in 2008 to the position of vice governor of Anhui province and was in charge of land, housing, environmental protection and other areas. Such sectors are often plagued by corruption, with officials in powerful positions wielding large influence over land sales, housing developments and factory licenses.
Anhui has made headlines in recent years because of problems in such areas. During a nationwide drive to build subsidized apartments, numerous complaints were filed by Anhui residents over units that had huge holes in the walls and floors. In 2011, a battery factory in Anhui sickened more than 200 children with lead poisoning.
Ni is the latest high-level official to be investigated since Xi came to power in November. A couple of weeks ago, authorities said an investigation had been launched into Liu Tienan, a powerful economic planning official who had been accused by a prominent journalist of corruption. In December, a deputy party secretary of Sichuan province was removed from his post following state media reports that he was suspected in influence-peddling and questionable real estate deals.
Reports of the investigation into Ni come as state media have been plastered with headlines about the ongoing crackdown on corruption, which include the deployment of 10 inspection teams to various provinces and organizations.
The teams vowing to scrutinize high-level officials have been sent to check on five provinces and five government or state-linked organizations, including the Ministry of Water Resources, the China Grain Reserves Corp., and the Export-Import Bank of China.
Anti-corruption experts and political observers have said, however, that as long as the party does not undertake reforms that serve to check its power, such as requiring officials to publicly declare their assets, the campaign will appear to address only the symptoms of corruption.
The prominent editor of Caixin magazine, Hu Shuli, wrote in a commentary Monday that the spread of corruption in recent years shows that the authorities' measures have limited effect.
"Actually, the answer is not a profound mystery, and that is to carry forward holistic reforms that include political reforms and create the conditions for 'sunshine legislation,'" Hu wrote.