July 8th Top 5- #5: Chinese former Railways Minister given suspended death sentence


Photo By: Kimon Berlin

The Status Quo:

A Chinese court has given former Railways Minister Liu Zhijun a suspended death sentence for corruption and abuse of power.

Liu was accused of awarding government rail contracts in return for bribes totaling more than 64 million yuan (US$10m) over 25 years.

Liu is the most high-profile official to be found guilty of corruption since President Xi Jinping came into power earlier this year, pledging to crackdown on corruption at all levels of the Communist Party.

China’s railways ministry was disbanded in March after it was criticized for a series of safety scandals as well as fraud allegations.

The Quo Vadimus:


Liu Zhijun is probably truly guilty of some of the crimes he was sentenced for, is possibly guilty of more, and is 100 percent for sure a scapegoat.

The Charges

Liu was a powerful figure who by most reports did business the Chinese way: accepting bribes, elevating those he liked and generally benefiting himself while conducting the nation’s business.

The railway ministry has huge problems. Some of these are undoubtedly Liu’s fault, but the nation sized debt is more likely from over ambitious high speed rail projects rather than graft.

The economic problems are being dealt with (or hidden) with a reform, the process to building the debt is being blamed on Liu as well as the widespread discontent with services.

The conviction

Liu’s conviction allows new Chinese President Xi Jingping to look strong and most importantly the Communist Party to look tough on corruption.  I’m not sold on either.

Xi Jingping has made corruption a major talking point and high profile cases including Liu and Bo XiLai seem to fit that script. The reality is both of these were about power.

Bo Xilai was a competitor to Xi Jingping’s power base, and his eventual conviction was part of the process of clearing out opponents.

Liu’s downfall isn’t as clearly about rivalries but it is about power. The Railways ministry has been a source of power for decades and Liu ran it like a fiefdom. Getting rid of him was necessary before Xi Jingping could control the pivotal ministry.

Future of Railway

The government has announced the Railway Ministry will be absorbed into the Transport ministry and sections of it will be privatized.

In some ways good news, in others a cover for either raising prices or simply continuing with business as usual.


Liu’s conviction will turn into a life sentence.  His fall will be an example to others and a feather in the new leadership’s anti-corruption cap.

The real lesson is: if you run your ministry so badly it becomes the focal point of bi-annual rage (Chinese New year and the National Holiday week) you will go to jail.

More Resources:

Chinese courts have given former Railway Minister Liu Zhijun a suspended death sentence on charges of abuse of power, taking bribes and malpractice

Former minister given suspended death sentence

Demise of China’s unloved railways ministry

This article has been put together with reporting (The Status Quo) by Emily Hennessy, EmilyHennessy@QuoVadimusNews.com, @EmilyHennessy and the views of (The Quo Vadimus) of Brandon Blackburn-Dwyer, BrandonBD@QuoVadimusNews.Com, @Brandon_BD (On Twitter and Weibo).

Filed in: The Status Quo, World News Briefs Tags: , , , , ,

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