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In China, the top communist party boss in Shanghai has been sacked for corruption. He's the highest ranking official caught in a 10-year-old anti-corruption effort.
But for the government, admitting such graft also carried risks, as NPR's Louisa Lim reports from Shanghai.
(Soundbite of foreign television)
LOUISA LIM: The announcement on the television news is no less than a political earthquake. A man once thought of as untouchable, sacked in a widening corruption scandal. The party secretary of Shanghai, Chen Liangyu, is a member of the all powerful Polit Bureau, a committee of just 24 people who run the country.
The investigation centers on the misuse of the city's social security fund. Early reports say a third of the $1.2 billion pension fund was illegally invested in risky real estate and infrastructure projects.
Chen's accused of aiding illegal businesses, protecting corrupt officials and abusing his position to help his own family members. His dismissal is a bold move by President Hu Jintao, both for practical and political ends.
Mr. JOSEPH CHANG (Hong Kong City University): The central leadership is now sending a very strong signal to corrupt officials in China and also to officials not towing the central line.
LIM: Joseph Chang at Hong Kong City University says Shanghai's long been the power base of former president Jiang Zemin. In this brash city of soaring skyscrapers, local politicians, including Chen Liangyu, have chafed at orders from the central government.
Mr. CHANG: There are some criticisms against Shanghai for always putting Shanghai first, for neglecting the interest of the neighboring provinces, too. This is a traditional threat to the central leadership, the potential emergence of independent kingdoms.
LIM: Now President Hu wants to show he's in control, head of a big party congress next year. So this plays into high-level power politics. But it's also a populist move according to Willie Lamb(ph) from Akita University who's just written a book about Hu Jintao.
Mr. WILLIE LAMB (Akita University): Hu Jintao has staked his reputation as a (unintelligible) of the people. This is one of the surest means by which top leaders in China can gain credibility with the public.
(Soundbite of street noise)
LIM: On the streets of Shanghai this evening, the news took many by surprise. It wasn't yet carried in the newspapers.
SUN: (Speaking foreign language)
LIM: If it's true, of course it's good news, said a man who'd only give his name as Sun as he waited at the bus stop. The government's definitely attacking corruption, but another conversation showed just why corruption is such a dangerous subject for the government to tackle. Neither man would give his full name.
WONG: (Speaking foreign language)
LIM: The communist party was meant to serve the people, Newspaper salesman Wong said. Now they just serve their own wallets. The officials steal the money we earn with our sweat and blood. We hate the government today.
JAO: (Speaking foreign language)
LIM: His friend Jao drew a parallel with Taiwan, where mass protests are calling for President's Chen Shui-Bian's resignation over corruption allegations.
Not missing a beat, Mr. Wong rushed on. Well, what about 1989, he said. Those protests were about corruption and so many people got killed. China's real problem, he said, is that there's no democracy and so the corruption just gets worse and worse.
Louisa Lim, NPR News, Shanghai.
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