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US concerned at reports Chinese activist's family abused
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) April 10, 2013

China ex-railways minister charged with graft: media
Beijing (AFP) April 10, 2013 - Prosecutors charged China's former railways minister Liu Zhijun with bribery and abuse of power on Wednesday, state media said, after scandals involving hundreds of millions of yuan.

The official Xinhua news agency said the charges were filed at the Beijing No. 2 Intermediate People's Court, which has "accepted the case and will set a trial date".

Details of the charges were not immediately published. The court refused to comment to AFP.

State media have previously reported that Liu, who was appointed in 2003 and sacked in 2011, faced investigation for allegedly taking payouts while handing out contracts for the rapid expansion of China's high-speed railway system.

He was expelled from the ruling Communist Party in November, a move seen as paving the way for a trial over what state media have previously reported was alleged bribe-taking of 800 million yuan ($129 million).

Expulsion from the party typically precedes a court trial.

The Xinhua report did not include any figure, but cited the indictment as saying the circumstances were "especially serious".

The indictment accuses Liu of taking advantage of his position as a government official to accept what Xinhua characterised as "financial incentives from others, which were of a huge amount".

Under Chinese criminal law, the death penalty can be imposed for taking bribes exceeding 100,000 yuan.

Liu has been advised of his rights, interrogated and the prosecutors have heard from his legal counsel, Xinhua added.

China's rail system -- which has cost hundreds of billions of dollars -- has been one of its flagship development projects in recent years, and it now boasts the world's longest high-speed network.

But a high-speed crash in the eastern city of Wenzhou killed some 40 people in 2011, sparking a torrent of public criticism that authorities compromised safety in their rush to expand the network.

China announced last month it was switching control of the railway ministry's administrative functions to the transport ministry and handing its commercial functions to a new China Railway Corporation.

Liu's indictment comes as China's new leaders President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang vow to fight corruption, which the Communist Party has identified as a threat to its continued rule of the world's biggest country.

In January, Xi was quoted by state media telling the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection -- the party's corruption watchdog -- that there would be "no leniency" against wrongdoing.

The United States said Wednesday it was concerned about reports that a nephew of blind Chinese human rights activist Chen Guangcheng has been mistreated in jail and other family members harassed.

But the State Department declined to discuss promises made by China in negotiations that led to Chen's departure from China last year after he had escaped house arrest and taken refuge in the US embassy in Beijing.

In an interview with AFP on Tuesday, Chen accused China of violating an agreement to ensure the safety of the activist's relatives, saying his nephew was badly beaten in prison and other members of his family intimidated.

Chen, a self-taught lawyer who embarrassed Beijing by exposing forced abortions, called on Washington to make public the diplomatic record of the negotiations and to raise the issue with China.

"We're deeply concerned by reports that prison officials abused Chen Kegui, the nephew of prominent human rights advocate Chen Guangcheng, during his ongoing imprisonment and that local authorities continue to harass his family members," State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said.

"So we urge the Chinese government to treat all of its citizens, including Chen Kegui, fairly and with dignity.

"But in terms of any of our diplomatic conversations, we're not in a position to further characterize our diplomatic discussions, nor at the time in our current discussions," Ventrell added.

Ventrell said he was "not aware, one way or another" of the existence of a written record on the negotiations that ended in Chen's departure from China in May with his wife and son to study law in New York.

The activist fled to the US embassy in the Chinese capital after escaping from house arrest in Shandong province last April, by scaling the walls of his home.

"Not only has the Chinese government not fulfilled its own promises to me a year ago, but it has also become worse as they have not stopped persecuting my family members," Chen told AFP.

"This in itself shows that the Chinese communist regime has no intention to change its course," he said.


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