Sacked Chongqing cadre in graft probe

The former head of the Communist Party's publicity department in Chongqing is being investigated for corruption, state media reports say.

Zhang Zonghai , 54, had been put under shuanggui - a form of detention and interrogation in which party members suspected of wrongdoing are made to confess their offences - the official Chongqing Daily reported. It reported Mr Zhang had accepted bribes worth more than 9 million yuan when he was party secretary of Chongqing's Qianjiang district. He was promoted to his latest post in May 2002.

Although Mr Zhang was still under investigation, the report said he had already been dismissed.

The report also alleged that, after he was promoted to the department, Mr Zhang - at the invitation of a subordinate, Zhang Xiaochuan - went on gambling sprees in Macau, during which they lost more than 200 million yuan in the Lisboa Casino's VIP rooms.

Zhang Xiaochuan, a former head of the Chongqing Television and Broadcast Bureau, was also under investigation for alleged corruption.

According to the report, authorities were originally investigating Zhang Xiaochuan, but started probing Zhang Zonghai as well when he was implicated in Zhang Xiaochuan's alleged crimes.

The Chongqing Daily said the pair used public money to gamble and suggested much of the cash was obtained illegally by Zhang Xiaochuan.

Guo Yong , of Tsinghua University's centre for China studies in Beijing, said taking superiors to gamble in Macau had been a popular form of bribery on the mainland since the 1980s.

'Officials treated to gambling there do not have to worry about losing. They are offered a large sum to gamble and if they win, they get to keep it; if they lose, the briber foots the bill,' said Mr Guo.

In 1999, former Shenyang vice-mayor Ma Xiangdong was snared after being video-taped gambling in Macau - one of the mainland's most high-profile corruption cases in recent years.

Also caught with Ma was his boss, former mayor Mu Suxin .

Ma was executed in 2001 and Mu is serving a suspended death sentence in jail.