April 17, 2019 / 11:02 AM / 3 days ago

China's Xi, in scandal-plagued Chongqing, praises city's achievements

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese President Xi Jinping offered praise on Wednesday for what he called the achievements of the southwestern city of Chongqing, one of the country’s most important cities, hit by two major graft scandals in recent years.

FILE PHOTO: Chinese President Xi Jinping holds a news conference after a meeting with French President at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France March 25, 2019. Yoan Valat/Pool via REUTERS

Chongqing has been ground zero for Xi’s war against graft, with two of its former Communist Party chiefs, both once seen as contenders for China’s top offices, jailed for corruption.

On a visit to the city, Xi “gave affirmation to the achievements Chongqing has made in its work”, the official Chongqing Daily said, after he heard a report from party and government officials.

Xi said he hoped that the city could ensure party instructions are fully implemented and continue to create a “pure and honest political ecology”, the paper added.

“Cultivate a team of high-quality cadres who are loyal and clean,” it paraphrased Xi as saying. “Maintain high pressure on punishing corruption and consolidate the overwhelming victory in the anti-corruption struggle.”

Last year, a court sentenced former Chongqing party boss Sun Zhengcai to life in prison for corruption.

Before being jailed, Sun had been abruptly removed from his post, and replaced by Chen Miner, who is close to Xi.

Another former Chongqing party boss, Bo Xilai, was jailed in 2013 for bribery, corruption and abuse of power in a dramatic scandal kicked off by his wife’s murder of a British businessman.

The Chongqing Daily report said Chen attended the meeting in Chongqing with Xi, but did not say if Xi had directly talked about the cases of Sun or Bo.

Xi has presided over a sweeping corruption crackdown since coming to power in 2012, vowing to target both “tigers” and “flies”, a reference to elite officials and ordinary bureaucrats.

The campaign has led to the jailing or punishment of thousands of officials and brought down dozens of senior party and military officials.

Beyond issues of bribery and use of public money to funds lavish lifestyles, the anti-corruption effort has taken aim at those who express doubt in public about party policies or are found lacking in political loyalty.

China has rebuffed criticism that the campaign is as much about settling political scores as about stamping out criminal acts.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

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