Liu Zhijun , the former railways minister, is the latest high-ranking official to be severely punished for corruption. The suspended death sentence he was given on Monday for bribery and abuse of power sends a clear message to others that they are not immune from investigation and prosecution if suspected of graft or corruption. The suspension of the death sentence prompted angry reaction in some quarters. But China has been pressured by international human rights groups to reduce the number of executions.
The verdict, while in keeping with the campaign for clean government being waged by president Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang , should not be the end of the case. Questions remain as to how a public figure with crimes that spanned 25 years could have remained in power so long.
The court's indictment showed that Liu, the chief of the now-defunct ministry of railways for nine years until being dismissed in 2011, was "responsible for huge losses of public assets". Starting in 1986, he was found to have accepted 64.6 million yuan (HK$80.9 million) in bribes and used his position to win promotion or contracts for 11 people. It is right that he should now be spending the rest of his life in jail. But despite the scale of the offences and length of time involved, his trial in June lasted a mere 3.5 hours.
Under Liu, few ministries were as powerful as the railways ministry, which gave Liu inordinate power. He was a cabinet minister and member of the Communist Party's central committee. He fast-tracked the nation's high-speed-rail development, but his misdeeds went unchecked.
Under Xi and Li, the drive against corruption has been given priority and a series of high-ranking officials have recently fallen. There can be no let-up in the leaderships' efforts; without clean government, the nation cannot move forward. But Liu's sentencing should not be the end of his case. Those who protected him from detection for so long also have to be revealed in order to prevent similar incidents.