Chinese ex-mayor to be prosecuted for ‘discipline breaches’

File photo - Huang Xingguo removes the veil covering a sign reading "China (Tianjin) Pilot Free Trade Zone", at an unveiling ceremony in Tianjin municipality, April 21, 2015. REUTERS/Stringer/File Photo

The former mayor of the Chinese port of Tianjin has been expelled from the Communist Party and will be prosecuted for “serious discipline breaches”, the party’s anti-graft watchdog said on Wednesday.

Huang Xingguo, 63, was placed under investigation on suspicion of the same charge, which is a euphemism for corruption, in September 2016, while he was acting party chief for the city. He became mayor in 2008.

Since assuming office four years ago, President Xi Jinping has waged battle against deep-seated graft, warning, as others have before him, the problem is so serious it could undermine the party’s grip on power.

 The investigation by the corruption watchdog, the Central Commission for Disciplinary Inspection (CCDI), found Huang guilty of “presumptuous comments” on government policy and damaging party unity, according to a post on its website.

He was also found to have accepted gifts, traveled with an “entourage” and worked to further his career by buying support and giving jobs to friends.

Tianjin is an important port about an hour from Beijing by car that has ambitions to become a financial hub for northern China.

In August 2015, big explosions at a Tianjin chemical warehouse killed about 170 people, sparking anger nationwide that the storage facility had been built so close to a residential area.

The commission did not mention the accident in its statement but it did say that among Huang’s disciplinary breaches was having “engaged in superstitious activities”.

Party officials in officially atheist China are not supposed to practise religion and the charge of superstition is often leveled against the corrupt to further blacken their names.

Huang could not be reached for comment.

Wang Qishan, head of CCDI, warned officials against believing in “ghosts and supernatural beings” in December last year.

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