China’s Communist Party targets Hangzhou in anti-graft drive

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Senior cadres in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou – including those who have retired or stepped down within the last three years – will be questioned by anticorruption investigators to see if they or their family members have colluded with business or have conflicts of interest.

The announcement from the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection on Monday came just two days after the Communist Party’s top anticorruption watchdog announced that the city’s party chief Zhou Jiangyong was under investigation for alleged graft.

It is not clear if Monday’s announcement was directly tied to Zhou’s case, one of the most high-profile anticorruption investigations in the country this year.

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Late on Saturday, the CCDI announced that Zhou, 54, was being investigated for alleged “serious violations of discipline and law”, but offered no further details on the nature of the allegations.

Zhou’s investigation came as a surprise as he chaired a meeting with other city leaders just a day earlier.

He is the most senior official in Hangzhou to be investigated in recent years.

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Well before the investigation into Zhou, Zhejiang province, of which Hangzhou is the capital, had launched a similar “self-examination” campaign in other cities and towns, asking cadres to distance themselves from business interests.

The campaign is understood to have started last year and was a major recommendation raised by a central disciplinary inspector after a fact-finding trip to Zhejiang.

As early as October, Zhejiang has been trying to stamp out cadres’ inappropriate business ties, according to the provincial disciplinary committee website.

In February, during a routine inspection by trip, the Central Leading Group for Inspection Work flagged Zhejiang for its inadequate efforts in this area.

The inspection team, headed by Zhao Fengtong, told leaders in Zhejiang, including Zhou, that they needed to look into any conflicts of interest when dealing with business and take remedial action.

The Hangzhou campaign targets three specific areas of activities by leading cadres and officials: business-related conflicts of interest, loans in violation of party discipline and rules, and the business ties of their spouses and children.

Roughly 25,000 cadres and officials in Hangzhou will reportedly take part in the self-examination drive, and 10 per cent will be selected randomly for further examination.

Zhejiang is one of the country’s most vibrant economic engines and Hangzhou, which accounts for a quarter of the province’s economic output, is home to e-commerce giant Alibaba, which owns the South China Morning Post.

In a statement on its WeChat account on Sunday, Ant Group, the financial arm of Alibaba, rejected speculation online that the case was related to its failed IPO in Hong Kong in November.

“Ant Group strictly abided by laws and regulations in an open and transparent manner during the IPO process,” the company said.

“Ant Group has not reached any deals with any law firm or lawyers as stated in the rumours.”

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Just two days before the public announcement of the investigation into Zhou, Ma Xiaohui, the former party chief of Huzhou – also in Zhejiang – surrendered to anticorruption investigators. It is not clear if his case is related to Zhou’s.

State media reported on Thursday that Ma “voluntarily surrendered” for suspected “serious violations of discipline and law”.

Between 2015 to 2018, Ma was the vice mayor and the deputy party secretary of Hangzhou. Before that, he was the deputy party secretary of Wenzhou.

Zhou started his career as a middle school teacher in an area that became Yinzhou district in Ningbo before quickly becoming the general secretary of the county’s youth league committee.

His entire political career has been in Zhejiang.

Before becoming the party secretary of Hangzhou in May 2018, Zhou held similar positions in the cities of Zhoushan and Wenzhou.

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