Zhou Yongkang

‘Stairway to Heaven’ official faces corruption charges

Investigation into politician's affairs is linked to the wider graft probe involving the former security czar Zhou Yongkang, according to a mainland media report

PUBLISHED : Monday, 05 May, 2014, 4:53pm
UPDATED : Monday, 05 May, 2014, 5:27pm

A former government official in Sichuan province has become the latest politician to face prosecution after he was investigated by the country’s anti-corruption watchdog.

Pu Zhong, a former deputy mayor of Yaan, has been accused of “serious disciplinary violations” as well as criminal offences, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection said in a brief statement. The case has been handed over to prosecutors. 

One part of the investigation centres on the high cost of a set of steps scaling a mountainside in the city, dubbed the “Stairway to Heaven”, the Shanghai-based Oriental Morning Post reported.

Pu was detained for investigation in November, together with Xu Mengjia, the former Communist Party secretary in Yaan, the newspaper said.

Xu was removed from his post in November for serious discipline violations, according to earlier official statements.

Pu and Xu were allegedly implicated in the graft investigation into Li Chongxi, a former top member of the political advisory body in Sichuan, the newspaper reported.

Li was a former aide to Zhou Yongkang, the retired national security tsar who is also at the centre of a top-level corruption investigation.

Citing sources close to the Yaan government, the newspaper reported that Pu and Xu backed the construction in 2009 of the 20-million yuan (HK$25 million) series of steps, 226-metres long, that scale up the side of a mountain in a local park.

The project was aimed at increasing the number of visitors.

The claim was questioned by some officials as there is already another set of steps in the park, the newspaper reported.

The initial budget for the project was 10 million yuan, but construction costs nearly doubled.

The report quoted anonymous sources as saying a fung shui master had suggested the ladder could help officials move faster to higher positions in their careers, too.

Xu took on the role of Yaan party chief in 2006.

The city was hit by a 6.6 magnitude earthquake in April last year that killed 196 people and injured more than 10,000.

Earlier allegations emerged online that Xu had exaggerated the damage caused to cheat the central government of more relief funds.

Soon after the quake, Xu was interrupted by a state television presenter in a live broadcast after he spent too much time praising the disaster relief effort by provincial leaders instead of giving a detailed account of the situation on the ground.

Yaan officials who spoke to the newspaper also criticised Xu for failing to boost the economy during his seven-year tenure.