Ousted Urumqi chief Li Zhi investigated for corruption

Graft-busters look into the activities of the former party boss who was fired in 2009 amid deadly clashes in the Xinjiang capital

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 12 March, 2015, 12:09am
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 March, 2015, 12:13am

The former Communist Party boss of the Xinjiang capital, Urumqi, who lost his job in the fallout of a series of deadly ethnic clashes six years ago is under investigation for alleged graft.

The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection announced on its website yesterday that Li Zhi, who was also formerly deputy chief of the Xinjiang's people's congress, is suspected of serious violations of party discipline and law, a term that usually refers to corruption. It gave no further details.

Li, 64, became party chief of Urumqi, in November 2006, but was sacked two months after riots on July 5, 2009. Ethnic tensions between Han and Uygurs had erupted into clashes that left 197 dead and more than 1,600 injured in the city.

Tensions escalated on September 3, 2009, when thousands of Han Chinese protested in the city, demanding the resignation of regional party boss Wang Lequan as reports of mysterious syringe attacks triggered fear among residents.

Li was widely remembered for standing on top of a police vehicle in Nanmen Square for nearly two hours, begging the protesters to go home.

Li was later fired, becoming what many say was a scapegoat for Wang.

But Li remained deputy chief of the autonomous region's people's congress and a delegate of the National People's Congress between 2008 and 2012. Early last year, the commission conducted inspections in Xinjiang and into the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, a quasi-military entity that controls much of the region.

In reports issued in July, the commission said inspectors received major complaints of graft in the mining, natural resources and land sectors.

Just three years ago, on the sidelines of the annual NPC session in 2012, Li said the persistent violence in the troubled region was nothing to fuss about. "Xinjiang is stable. Every country has rioters," he said. "Riots do not only happen in Xinjiang, but it seems that Xinjiang is considered a sensitive area. There are only a few bad people here."

He said it would be abnormal if there were not rioters in Xinjiang, adding that the United States experienced regular mass shootings.

The region, home to the mainly Muslim Uygur ethnic minority, has suffered repeated outbreaks of violence after the riots in the summer of 2009.