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Wang Baoan, head of the National Bureau of Statistics, addresses a press conference in Beijing on January 19. He has been detained in a graft investigation. Photo: Xinhua

China’s statistics chief Wang Baoan detained in graft investigation

Top state radio apparently caught on back foot by CCDI’s announcement

China’s top statistician was detained on Tuesday as part of a graft investigation, making him the latest senior economic official to fall from grace as the country battles economic and financial headwinds.

The Communist Party’s anti-graft watchdog made the dramatic announcement about National Bureau of Statistics chief Wang Baoan just as state radio aired comments Wang made earlier in the day at a press conference on the economy.

The sound bites were broadcast on state radio’s main daily news bulletin. But minutes later the news presenter read out a brief statement about the investigation into Wang. The apparently hasty arrangement is rare given the tight editorial and censorship procedures at top state media.

The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection said Wang was under investigation for “suspected serious violations of discipline”, a phrase that often refers to corruption. The CCDI’s statement was brief and did not suggest what the case might involve.

Wang, 52, was appointed as the bureau’s chief in April.

READ MORE: China’s Vice-Minister of Finance Wang Baoan tipped to head National Bureau of Statistics

Before that, he spent 17 years in the finance ministry, joining in 1998 as a deputy director of its general office. He was later appointed head of the ministry’s policy planning office.

In 2007, Wang became head of the ministry’s economic construction office, which oversees the budget for state investment in infrastructure and is responsible for approving financial investment. One year later, Beijing announced a 4 trillion yuan stimulus package to revive the ailing economy amid the global financial crisis. The package involved a huge amount of government spending on infrastructure, must of which came under the jurisdiction of Wang’s office.

Wang left the economic construction office at the end of 2009, when he was appointed assistant financial minster.

In 2012, he was promoted to vice minister overseeing the offices of finance, social welfare. He was also the major promoter of the public-private partnership model of financing infrastructure projects.

Earlier on Tuesday, Wang gave a press briefing in Beijing, saying that the yuan had no ground to depreciate in the long term, and that international demand for the yuan was on the rise. He said the fluctuations in the stock market would only have a limited impact on the country’s economy, and he was confident about the market’s performance.

READ MORE: Ex-statistics chief on trial for bigamy

Last week, Wang also hosted a closely watched press conference held to release China’s gross domestic product figure for 2015, which hit a 25-year low of 6.9 per cent.

Wang is just the latest cadre with an extensive financial background to be investigated in Beijing’s massive anti-graft campaign. Yao Gang, vice-chairman of the China Securities Regulatory Commission, the country’s securities watchdog, was investigated in November. And Zhang Yujun, an assistant chairman overseeing brokerages and fund houses at the CSRC ,was probed in September.

Former statistics chief Qiu Xiaohua was jailed in 2007 for bigamy but made a comeback as an economics adviser for several state-owned enterprises after his release in 2008.