Top Chinese official faces graft probe as Xi Jinping tightens grip   

Huang Xingguo, mayor of north China's Tianjin city where 162 people were killed and thousands displaced in a mysterious giant explosion last year, faced anti-corruption probe by the party.

Beijing | Published:September 11, 2016 1:48 pm
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A top provincial official of China’s ruling Communist Party is facing corruption probe, becoming the latest bigwig to fall in President Xi Jinping’s anti-graft drive as he continues to consolidate his hold with new appointments ahead of a key party meet.

Huang Xingguo, mayor of north China’s Tianjin city where 162 people were killed and thousands displaced in a mysterious giant explosion last year, faced anti-corruption probe by the party.

Huang, 62, is being investigated for suspected “serious disciplinary violations,” state-run Xinhua news agency quoted the Communist Party of China (CPC), Discipline Inspection as saying today.

Huang, is also the acting Party chief of the port city, located close to Beijing and carries lot of political weight for city’s proximity to the capital and as the economic hub.

He was made mayor of Tianjin in 2007 and took on the additional role of acting party secretary in 2014 but he had not yet been permanently appointed – an unusually long time in provincial politics, Hong Kong based South China Morning Post reported.

The anti-graft probe was announced 13 months after a deadly warehouse blast in Tianjin for which Huang previously said he bore “inexcusable” responsibility.

Huang is among thousands of “tigers and flies” who faced investigations for corruption in Xi’s massive anti-graft drive in the last three years amid allegations that it is also being effectively used to purge the party and military of elements hostile to him as he is emerged as the most powerful leader, heading the party, the government and the military.

Before facing the probe, Huang was regarded as a contender for the party’s powerful 25-member Politburo, possibly joining the decision-making body at next year’s 19th party congress.

The Congress is held every five years.

The 18th Congress which was held towards the end of 2012 elected Xi as General Secretary and he is expected to continue till 2022.

Ahead of the plenum of the party which was expected to take place next month Xi, 63, has reshuffled the party heads of the various provinces placing his loyalists in key positions.

Speculation is rife that the plenum of the party will discuss change of key rule of collective leadership adopted by the party in 1980 and might be amended to further strengthen Xi’s leadership, giving him the iconic status enjoyed by party founder Mao Zedong and reformist leader Deng Xiaoping to continue for longer term.