Top Chinese science body named at graft trial

High-speed rail chief Zhang Shuguang says he reserved millions of yuan to bribe members of the Chinese Academy of Sciences for a seat

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 14 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 14 September, 2013, 4:54am

The former transport bureau chief of the defunct railways ministry told a Beijing court half of the 47 million yuan (HK$59.2 million) in bribes he took was to lobby for a seat in the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Zhang Shuguang did not say how much he spent or whether anyone at the academy took money in exchange to back his membership bid in 2007 and again in 2009. Both times Zhang sought a seat in the Technological Science Division, one of the academy's six sections. He fell seven votes short of the required two-thirds support in the first election, and was one vote short the second time around.

The academy, which has about 700 members, said it had not received any complaints regarding Zhang's candidacy, but if evidence of wrongdoing was found, those responsible would be severely punished. A spokesman yesterday declined to confirm whether the academy had launched a formal investigation.

Zhang made the claim on Tuesday at Beijing's No2 Intermediate People's Court, where he has admitted to taking bribes worth more than 47 million yuan between 2000 and 2011.

The academy admits a maximum of 60 new members in elections held every two years. To be eligible, Zhang would have first needed to pass a preliminary election at the ministry. At the time, his boss was Liu Zhijun , who was given a suspended death sentence in July for abusing his office and accepting tens of millions of yuan in bribes.

Zhang would then have entered a race with about 400 others. Despite his admitted exaggerated résumé and academic contributions, he received 83 of the 126 votes the division's members cast in 2009.

Zhang also tried to gain entry to the Chinese Academy of Engineering (CAE), but his application was rejected, said member Wang Mengshu , the deputy chief engineer for China Railway Tunnel Group.

Wang said Zhang was turned away because he lacked research credentials. "Fortunately we resisted pressure and turned down his nomination, or the CAE would be as embarrassed as the science academy is today," Wang said. "I told the rail ministry Zhang's nomination would be an embarrassment, but they wouldn't listen."

Liu backed Zhang's candidacy, The Beijing News reported sources in the ministry as saying. The ministry directed more than 30 top researchers to write books under Zhang's name. Some researchers said they had been asked by the ministry to deny their involvement in the work.

A CAS researcher said Zhang's failure to become a member showed the system worked. "Few people had the same resources and influence as he did," he said. "If he didn't make it, few others could."