(From Reuters)

The former head of China’s work safety regulator, sacked after blasts that killed more than 160 people in August, will be prosecuted for suspected corruption, the ruling Communist Party’s anti-graft watchdog said Friday.

Yang Dongliang had been sacked following the Tianjin explosion
Yang Dongliang was sacked following the Tianjin explosion

Another former senior official, who was party boss of the northern province of Hebei and former associate of China’s jailed one-time security chief Zhou Yongkang, will also be prosecuted on similar charges, the watchdog said.

Yang Dongliang was removed as director of the State Administration of Work Safety shortly after the massive August explosions in a warehouse in the port city of Tianjin not far from the capital, Beijing.

In a terse statement, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection said that Yang, in his capacity as a member of the ruling Communist Party’s powerful central committee, had “lost his ideals and convictions” and “seriously violated” discipline.

Yang is suspected of crimes, including abusing his position to obtain public assets, accepting money and gifts, unauthorised travel abroad, “squandering” public funds and interfering in investigations, the statement said.

He was also investigated for accepting entertainment from private business, and violating housing and provision of public vehicles rules, it said.

Zhou Benshun
Zhou Benshun

The other suspect named in a separate statement is Zhou Benshun, who is not related to Zhou Yongkang, and had been the top official in the northern province of Hebei, which surrounds Beijing and is China’s most important steel producer.

The party accused him in July of “serious breaches of discipline and the law”, a euphemism for corruption.

Zhou had abused his position for private gain and peddled influence, accepted money and gifts, lived an “extravagant life” and frequently visited private clubs, the statement said.

It was not possible to reach either Yang or Zhou Benshun for comment and not clear if they had lawyers.

The Hebei city of Zhangjiakou this year won the right to host the 2022 Winter Olympics along with Beijing. Zhou Benshun had attended meetings of the bid committee.

Zhou Benshun became party chief in Hebei in 2013. He had worked for five years in the Central Politics and Law Commission as its secretary general, under Zhou Yongkang, who was jailed for life in June after a secret trial in China’s most sensational graft scandal in 70 years.

President Xi Jinping, who doubles as party and military chief, has pursued a relentless campaign against deep-rooted corruption since assuming power three years ago, vowing to go after powerful “tigers” as well as lowly “flies”.

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