The case highlights widespread corruption in the Chinese official media.
Authorities in the Chinese capital have handed down a 13-year jail term to a former top editor convicted of bribery.
Liu Chongzhou, a former editor-in-chief of the China Land and Resources newspaper, was sentenced on Wednesday by the Beijing No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court for taking bribes amounting to 2.3 million yuan (U.S.$361,550) and a BMW vehicle over the course of a decade.
The corruption scandal also implicated a large number of top officials in the land and resources ministry, including former vice-minister Li Yun, who was relieved of his official posts in the ruling Chinese Communist Party and government.
Xie Xuanjun, a scholar of Chinese studies in New York, said the case highlighted widespread corruption in the official media, which traditionally has close links with top-ranking government and Party officials.
“The problems in the Chinese media stem from the fact that it exists under a single-Party authoritarian regime,” Xie said.
“China’s media is controlled by the Communist Party…under the unified leadership of that Party.”
“This means that corruption in the media and corruption among officials spring from the same source.”
Scratching at surface
U.S.-based Chinese Internet journalist Li Hongkuan said corruption was now present in every aspect of Chinese life.
“For a newspaper editor to take bribes is perfectly normal in China,” Li said. “All of China’s newspapers and media are owned by the state.”
“This means they are in business on behalf of the government…The Party holds control over and copyright in everything they do.”
Analysts said Liu’s sentence was only scratching at the surface of the problem, which would likely remain until the Chinese government started to tolerate public criticism.
“They talk about fighting corruption, but they never do it for real,” Li said.
He said an independent body was needed like Hong Kong’s Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), with sweeping powers to seize evidence and detain suspects.
“They won’t allow a free press to supervize them, still less will they countenance something like the ICAC,” he said.
Xie agreed. “The Party controls the banks, the media and the enterprises,” he said. “So all the corruption comes from the same place.”
Faced with growing public mistrust and widespread popular anger over rampant corruption, the Chinese Communist Party recently launched “moral training sessions” for civil servants.
Official corruption, already an endemic problem in China, has mushroomed in the wake of widespread government spending on infrastructure projects in the wake of the global economic crisis, experts say.
In some sectors of the economy, corrupt transactions have now taken over regular business as the priority in many areas of the communications industry and the judiciary, according to some reports.
In 2007, the former head of the State Food and Drug Administration, Zheng Xiaoyu, was executed after being convicted of taking bribes in return for approving hundreds of medicines, some of which proved dangerous.
Reported by Xi Wang for RFA’s Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.