“No matter what you do - stay out of politics”. This was the advice disgraced ex-railways boss Liu Zhijun had for his daughter as he prepared to face the full judicial wrath of the Communist Party this month.
Asked by his lawyers whether he had anything to give to his daughter, the 60-year-old former head of the now-defunct Ministry of Railways clasped his hands together and said “nothing” - except the terse reminder for her to stay away from the dirty business of politics, China Newsweek reported on Monday.
Liu was accused of taking bribes and gifts worth 64.6 million yuan (HK$81 million) from 1986 to 2011 as well as helping business associates win contracts for railway projects. Liu, who has admitted all charges, could face the death penalty or life in prison if found guilty.
In an interview with China Newsweek, Liu’s lawyer Qian Lieyang said the last time he met Liu at Beijing’s Qincheng Prison, Liu looked well and was in a “positive mental state”.
Qian said Liu was able to watch television, read newspapers and “learn about the outside world”. Breakfast consisted of eggs and pork buns, while lunch was a meal of fish, pork, vegetables and rice.
He was especially elated when talking about his daughter, who he said was “talented in foreign languages and scored good grades” in school.
Liu's lawyers had expressed disappointment that he was having to take the entire brunt of blame for the controversial ministry’s problems and felt he had not received enought credit for the mass expansion of the country’s rail network - which last year reached 9,356km.
He also discussed why China had decided to develop high-speed rail instead of maglev (magnetic levitation trains). Liu said the sheer number of people commuting on trains at a single time in China made maglev trains more dangerous to operate due to their weight.
Liu's own reputation was tarnished following a fatal high-speed rail crash that killed 40 passengers and injured more than 170 in Wenzhou in 2011. The ministry was dissolved in March and its duties divided between the Ministry of Transport and newly created China Railway Corporation.
“When you are part of an organisation you are a person, when you are not part of the organisation you are a ghost,” China Newsweek quoted him as saying. At his hearing, Liu said he did not think 49 million yuan of the total stated in the prosecutor's charges amounted to bribery.
The man once responsible for running China's often scandal-plagued railways ministry went on trial on June 10 in an emotional court hearing in Beijing, which saw him burst into tears as he admitted to charges of graft and abuse of power.
His trial marks one of the country's biggest and most sensational graft cases in years and is also the first high-profile corruption case since Xi Jinping became president in March.