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China's anti-corruption campaign catches another 'tiger'

By Steven Jiang, CNN
updated 4:36 AM EDT, Thu June 26, 2014
President Xi Jinping has demonstrated a zero-tolerance approach to corruption since taking power.
President Xi Jinping has demonstrated a zero-tolerance approach to corruption since taking power.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Su Rong, former vice chairman of China's top political advisory body, removed from his post
  • Party: Su under investigation for the "serious violation of laws and Party disciplines"
  • Xinhua: Su and his wife profited through bribes and illegal land deals when he ran Jiangxi province
  • This is the latest chapter in President Xi Jinping's crusade against corruption in China

Beijing (CNN) -- More details emerged in state media Thursday about the dismissal of the highest-ranking Chinese official yet since President Xi Jinping launched a massive campaign against corruption -- a lightning rod for public discontent across the country.

Su Rong, a former vice chairman of China's top political advisory body, was formally removed from his post on Wednesday. Though little known outside of China, Su's position at the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference made him a "state leader" in the official hierarchy.

The downfall of Su, a senior member of the ruling Communist Party who served as the Party boss in three provinces, was made public on June 14. The Party's disciplinary commission said in a brief online announcement that he is under investigation for the "serious violation of laws and Party disciplines."

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State media has since characterized Su as the biggest "tiger" caught in President Xi's anti-graft campaign. After taking power in late 2012, Xi banned official extravagance -- from banquets to year-end gifts -- and vowed to target "flies and tigers" alike in his fight against corruption when describing his resolve to spare no one regardless of their position.

The state-run Xinhua news agency recently touted the catching of 30 "tigers" after the investigations of Su as well as two other provincial leaders became known.

Su, 65, and his wife profited tremendously through bribes and illegal land deals when he ran the southeastern province of Jiangxi, state media reported. He was also implicated in tampering with evidence in a criminal trial and covering up the death toll in the breaching of a local dam, according to state media.

READ: Swatting flies? Beijing's fight to root out corruption

Zhou Yongkang

Some China watchers have noted Su's ties to Zhou Yongkang, the former domestic security czar who has been rumored to be under investigation for some time.

State media has reported official probes into many of Zhou's family members as well as former associates in the domestic security apparatus, state oil industry and Sichuan Province in the southwest -- three places Zhou once ruled. If announced, Zhou would replace Su to become the highest-ranking official ever to face corruption charges in the history of the People's Republic.

In 2013, some 182,000 officials were disciplined while courts nationwide tried 23,000 corruption cases, according to the Party's disciplinary commission. State media has cited the trial and conviction last year of former high-flying politician Bo Xilai -- though called politically motivated by Bo supporters -- as one prime example of President Xi's determination to clean up the Party.

READ: Xi Jinping's adds 'chili pepper' to anti-corruption drive

Corruption is so widespread and so endemic that campaigns are just not going do it. Something has to be done about the system.
Frank Ching

'Corruption endemic'

Longtime China observers, however, point to the limits of President Xi's war on corruption.

"There have been public calls for a law to require officials disclosing their assets. There has been no indication that they are going to do that. In fact, a number of people calling for this law have ended up in prison," said Frank Ching, a Hong Kong-based commentator and columnist on Chinese politics.

"I think people will be much more convinced of the seriousness of this anti-corruption campaign if there were a move to enact such a law."

"Corruption is so widespread and so endemic that campaigns are just not going do it," he added. "Something has to be done about the system."

READ: Opinion: No transparency, no trust for China

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