GRAFT
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Xi Jinping's anti-graft campaign

Senior Chinese diplomat Zhang Kunsheng sacked for corruption: foreign ministry

Assistant foreign minister Zhang Kunsheng under investigation, the first of the ministry's elite to be swept up in President Xi Jinping's crackdown

PUBLISHED : Friday, 02 January, 2015, 12:31pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 03 January, 2015, 11:48am

A senior Chinese diplomat has been sacked and put under investigation, the foreign ministry said yesterday, amid a sweeping anti-corruption campaign.

Zhang Kunsheng, 56, was no longer an assistant foreign minister because he was "suspected of violating discipline and was being investigated", the ministry said in a brief statement, using the usual euphemism for corruption. It gave no further details.

Mainland media reported that Zhang was the most senior of the nation's four assistant foreign ministers - who rank below vice-foreign ministers - and was in charge of the ministry's protocol department.

Qin Gang, the ministry's chief spokesman, had assumed the protocol position, and assistant foreign minister Liu Jianchao would take over from Qin as the chief spokesman, China News Service reported.

President Xi Jinping has cracked down on graft since assuming office two years ago, but Zhang is the first senior diplomat to be caught up in the anti-corruption campaign.

"The announcement is quite sudden because the foreign ministry is considered cleaner than other government agencies," Renmin University international relations specialist Jin Canrong said.

It was not clear which agency was in charge of the investigation and what Zhang was alleged to have done. But there was speculation that the case of Zhang, a native of Shanxi province, could be linked to the downfall of a series of Shanxi officials.

Ling Zhengce, former vice-chairman of the province's political consultative conference, is under investigation, as is his brother Ling Jihua , the one-time top aide to former president Hu Jintao .

Gu Su, a professor of political science at Nanjing University, said diplomats sometimes helped Chinese companies establish businesses or do promotions overseas, which could be an opportunity to abuse power or give those companies special treatment.

"It cannot be ruled out that more diplomats will be implicated as the investigations continue," Gu said.

Shi Yinhong , another international relations affairs expert at Renmin University, said the announcement indicated that corruption was widespread throughout the government's agencies.

Zhang attended an Asean maritime navigation safety forum in Beijing on December 8.

He previously worked in the ministry's department of North American and Oceanian affairs, and at the Chinese embassy in Washington.

He was involved in planning state visits by Chinese and US leaders. In 1997, he helped plan then-president Jiang Zemin's trip to the United States.

Additional reporting by Reuters, Agence France-Presse