Shanghai officials under scrutiny as Beijing anti-graft inspection team sweeps into city
Senior officials nervous as high-profile disciplinary team from Beijing sweeps into municipality to begin two-month zero-tolerance inspection
Daniel Ren and Li Jing
Shanghai officials are jittery after a high-profile disciplinary inspection team from Beijing moved into the city on Wednesday, with speculation mounting that the two-month visit could stir up a hornet's nest of political and graft scandals.
The Shanghai inspection is among the fourth round of nationwide sweeps launched by the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) since May last year, with chief graft-buster Wang Qishan promising zero tolerance on corruption.
Analysts noted the Shanghai inspection was eye-catching, as the city was a power base of former president Jiang Zemin and a city President Xi Jinping led briefly in 2007.
Xi has reportedly asked inspection teams to be sent to places he headed - Shanghai and Zhejiang - to prove he is ready to tackle anyone who violates party rules, and that nothing would be off limits in his anti-graft drive, following his taking down of former security tsar Zhou Yongkang.
Zhang Wenyue, who leads the inspection in Shanghai, said the team would pay special attention to disciplinary and legal breaches including taking bribes, trading power for benefits, and abuse of power.
Two Shanghai government officials said nearly all senior cadres appeared to be fidgeting, as all signs pointed to some big shots being implicated during the inspection.
"The inspection is a stern test of the city-level officials and it is a guessing game now on who will be the victims this time," said a Pudong district government official who declined to be identified.
"A consensus among the local bureaucracy is that some powerful city leaders might be targeted."
Two days ahead of the Shanghai inspection, the city's prosecutors announced a corruption investigation into Wang Zongnan, former chairman of two state-owned companies in Shanghai, for allegedly taking bribes and embezzling public funds.
Shanghai government sources said at least one or two vice-ministerial-level officials or even those with higher ranks would become prime targets for the inspectors. Retired officials wouldn't be exempt.
They said one of the victims could be Zhang Xuebing, 59, who was sacked as vice-mayor and police bureau chief in March last year before being demoted to be the party chief of the Shanghai Airport Authority in June.
According to a source briefed by senior city officials about Zhang, his removal resulted from corruption charges but he received soft treatment due to protection from the city's top bosses. Zhang is a known protégé of Shanghai party boss Han Zheng.
On Wednesday, Han urged party cadres to cooperate fully with the inspection.
"We should not cover up [misconduct], and we're not afraid of being exposed for any wrongdoing," Han said at a meeting attended by the central disciplinary inspectors and the city's senior officials.
He urged senior cadres of the city's party committee to take the lead in scrutinising themselves.