China's ruling Communist Party has expelled former railways minister Liu Zhijun from its ranks over his suspected involvement in economic crimes, state media reported Monday.
According to the state-run Xinhua news agency, Liu had been under investigation since February 2011 for embezzling more than $120m (£76.52m) while overseeing the construction of China's high-speed rail network. It added that Liu was removed from the post last year for "severe disciplinary violations."
"He is a degenerate. He has major leadership responsibility for the serious corruption problems seen on the railways system," Xinhua said of Liu on Monday, adding that his case will now be handed over to prosecutors.
Liu became China's railways minister in 2003 and was entrusted with the responsibility of overseeing the multi-billion dollar up-gradation of the country's high-speed rail network. He forced to resign last year after being accused of taking massive bribes and abusing his authority to help a private businessman make illegal profits.
China, the world's second largest economy, has pumped billions of dollars into its high-speed rail network to cater to the ever growing numbers of commuters. Even as the communist nation takes considerable pride in its engineering excellence, technical snags and power failures have led to concerns regarding rail safety.
As many as 40 people were killed and more than 190 others injured in July 2011, when bullet train D301 Fuzhou from Beijing rammed into the rear end of D3115, which had been stalled after being struck by lightning. The mishap occurred near Wenzhou in eastern Zhejiang province.
Further, more than 280 people were injured in the city of Shanghai in September 2011after a subway train crashed into the rear end of a stationary train due to a signal failure. That accident happened on a newly expanded subway system in China's commercial capital. However, there were no fatalities in the accident.
China, which currently has about 8,350 kilometers of high-speed rail network, was earlier planning to extend the network to about 13,000 kilometers by 2012 and to 16,000 by 2020. It now remains to be seen whether those targets will be reduced because of the recent accidents.
by RTT Staff Writer
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