Xi Jinping's anti-graft campaign

Guangzhou's party boss Wan Qingliang, a rising political star, now facing graft investigation

Wan Qingliang, whose position has often been a stepping stone to higher political office, is being held for 'grave violations of discipline'

PUBLISHED : Friday, 27 June, 2014, 5:18pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 17 September, 2014, 7:29pm

Wan Qingliang, the Communist Party chief of Guangzhou who was once considered a rising political star, is under investigation for corruption, the party's anti-graft agency has announced.

Wan's downfall is significant, as being party chief of the metropolis of 12 million people is traditionally a stepping stone to higher office. Wan's predecessors Huang Huahua and Zhu Xiaodan were both promoted to Guangdong governor after holding the post.

The brief notice by the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection yesterday said only that Wan, 50, was suspected of "grave violations of discipline" - a party euphemism for corruption. A source close to the Guangzhou government said Wan was taken from the official compound by police yesterday afternoon.

The announcement came as a surprise to many. A day earlier, Wan had made a public appearance touring a district in the city accompanied by local officials. Yesterday's Guangzhou Daily, the municipal party committee's official newspaper, had a report of the tour on its front page.

The probe into Wan appeared to be a cause for concern for Guangdong officials.

"[News of the detention] is a bombshell to us," said a Guangzhou official who declined to be named. Wan was seen as having a bright future after rising up the ranks at a relatively young age.

He was head of the Guangdong Communist Youth League, the power base of former president Hu Jintao .

Wan built a career as a propaganda official in Meizhou, Guangdong - hometown of famed general and state leader Ye Jianying. Ye's family is believed to have retained political influence in the city since his death in 1986. Wan served in top posts in Jieyang from 2003 to 2008, including party chief.

It is widely believed that the probe into Wan may be linked to the recent interrogations of his former top aides. Former vice-mayor of Guangzhou Cao Jianliao was detained in December for corruption, along with a number of senior Jieyang officials.

Hours after Wan's detention, the party's official websites said Ma Xingrui, a Guangdong deputy party chief, would step in to lead the provincial capital, which is the third biggest city in China.

But authorities later deleted the posts, saying the appointment was unconfirmed.

Wan came under fire soon after he took the Guangzhou post in 2011, when he appeared to suggest that housing prices were too low. He told mainland media at the time that his monthly rent for a luxury flat was only 600 yuan (HK$750), despite the market price being five times that.

At a meeting on Thursday, as part of an ongoing "mass line" campaign initiated by President Xi Jinping, Wan urged local officials to better discipline themselves and their relatives, Southern Metropolis Daily reported yesterday.

Additional reporting by He Huifeng