Corruption in China

Graft probe nets another executive at China Southern

Airline executive vice-president in charge of operations taken away for investigation

PUBLISHED : Monday, 12 October, 2015, 11:22am
UPDATED : Monday, 12 October, 2015, 6:22pm

A senior manager at the mainland’s largest airline, China Southern Airlines, who was once reprimanded spending public funds to play golf, has been taken away for investigation as a sector-wide graft probe deepens.

Liu Qian, an executive vice-president in charge of operations, was taken away on Friday, a source told the South China Morning Post. A director at Zhuhai Flight Training Centre, a China Southern  subsidiary in Zhuhai, was also taken away, and inquiries were made about at least one other senior manager at the airline, the source also said.

A China Southern spokesman said he was “not aware of the situation” and insisted “everything is normal”, but he declined to comment on whether Liu was performing his role.

China’s booming aviation industry is among the latest targets of Communist Party graft busters who have been making rounds to examine state-owned enterprises and government bodies across the mainland. The probe into the airline sector, which started with a visit to China Southern by the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) in December, has resulted in a major management reshuffle at the airline after four senior executives were removed and detained for “job-related crimes” – a euphemism for corruption – in January. They were chief financial officer Xu Jiebo and deputy managers Chen Gang, Zhou Yuehai and Tian Xiaodong.

Liu, 52, a veteran pilot, joined the airline in 2004 from the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) and has been overseeing operations as well as the Zhuhai centre, according to China Southern’s website. He received remuneration of 1.397 million yuan  last year according to the company’s annual report, making him the highest-paid manager.  

In April this year Liu received a “serious warning” from the party and an administrative sanction for playing golf on public funds, while Zhang Zhong and Lin Qingtong, two managers at the Zhuhai centre, were also warned and made to return the funds, according to a notice on the CCDI’s website. But it is understood Liu’s job had not been affected by the warning and he had been performing his role between April and now.

CAAC, Air China and China Eastern Airlines were among units visited by the CCDI in the latest round of inspections that started in July. At least three CAAC officials have since been taken away on suspicion of corruption according to mainland media. Beijing Capital Airport said in a notice to the Hong Kong stock exchange on September 17 that its general manager, Shi Boli, had resigned from his post and all directorships at the company, after media reports emerged that Shi, a former CAAC official, had also been taken away for investigation.