Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Disgraced Chinese railway official given suspended death penalty

By Paul Armstrong, CNN
July 8, 2013 -- Updated 0639 GMT (1439 HKT)
Liu Zhijun was one of a number of officials linked to a deadly high-speed rail crash in July, 2011.
Liu Zhijun was one of a number of officials linked to a deadly high-speed rail crash in July, 2011.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Liu Zhijun, 60, was sentenced by Beijing court to death with a two-year reprieve
  • The former railways minister was found guilty of bribery and abuse of power
  • Liu was one of 54 officials linked to a 2011 train crash that killed 40 people
  • Report found major design flaws in train operating equipment, relaxed safety controls

Hong Kong (CNN) -- The former head of China's state railway system, once described in state media as "morally corrupted," has received a suspended death sentence for bribery and abuse of power.

Liu Zhijun, 60, was sentenced by the Beijing No. 2 Intermediate People's Court Monday to death with a two-year reprieve, deprived of his political rights for life and had all his personal property confiscated, the state-run Xinhua news agency said. He was also sentenced to 10 years in jail for abuse of power.

Though Liu's crimes carry the death penalty under Chinese law, it's thought his confession and subsequent cooperation influenced the court's decision to commute his sentence, state-media reported.

From 1986 to 2011, the court said Liu took advantage of his positions at local railway authorities and then as railways minister to help 11 people win lucrative government contracts. He reportedly accepted 64.6 million yuan (US$10.5 million) in bribes from them during this period, Xinhua said.

Liu was also accused of breaking regulations and applying favoritism, which allowed people such as Ding Yuxin, chairman of Beijing Boyou Investment Management Corporation, and her relatives to reap huge profits and inflict "colossal losses" on public assets, thus "violating rights and interests of the state and the people," Xinhua said.

Liu, who was appointed to the Railways Ministry in 2003, was responsible for the rapid expansion of China's rail infrastructure, particularly its high-speed network. He won widespread acclaim for his role until his arrest on corruption charges in February 2011.

Then in July that year, he was named as one of 54 officials linked to a 2011 train crash in the eastern city of Wenzhou that killed 40 people. In the wake of the collision of two high-speed trains, which also injured 172 people according to government figures, many in China expressed fury at the government. Some alleged corruption and efforts to cover up the tragedy -- charges the government denied.

However, a subsequent report found that major design flaws in train operating equipment, relaxed safety controls and poor emergency response to equipment failure caused the crash, Xinhua said.

Liu and the Railway Ministry's deputy chief engineer, Zhang Shuguang were held chiefly responsible for the crash, along with Ma Cheng, chairman of the board at China Railway Signal and Communication Corp., the producer of the railway signaling system.

Meanwhile, Monday's court sentence was criticized on social media, with some expressing frustration with President Xi Jinping's vow to cut down on corruption by clamping down on officials. One post from @Ziyeyu88 on Weibo, China's Twitter-like service, read: "The new leadership is nothing new! This is the so-called anti-corruption! It's still suspended death penalty after taking this much bribe!"

Another, named @Meiyingqishi655, posted: "People can be as much corrupted as possible in China. They won't die anyway."

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 0551 GMT (1351 HKT)
David McKenzie meets some American teenagers who are spending a year in China to be fully immersed in the culture.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 0259 GMT (1059 HKT)
Chinese students show a handmade red ribbon one day ahead of the the World AIDS Day, at a school in Hanshan, east China's Anhui province on November 30, 2009.
The Chinese government pledges to protect a boy with HIV, who was shunned by his entire village in Sichuan, state media reported.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 1144 GMT (1944 HKT)
A Chinese couple allegedly threw hot water on a flight attendant and threatened to blow up the plane.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 0503 GMT (1303 HKT)
China's 1.3 billion citizens may soon find it much harder to belt out their national anthem at will.
December 10, 2014 -- Updated 0021 GMT (0821 HKT)
Los Angeles in the last century went through its own smog crisis. The city's mayor says LA's experience delivers valuable lessons for Beijing.
December 6, 2014 -- Updated 0542 GMT (1342 HKT)
At the height of his power, security chief Zhou Yongkang controlled China's police, spy agencies and courts. Now, he's under arrest.
December 5, 2014 -- Updated 0826 GMT (1626 HKT)
China says it will end organ transplants from executed prisoners but tradition means that donors are unlikely to make up the shortfall.
December 5, 2014 -- Updated 0648 GMT (1448 HKT)
China's skylines could look a lot more uniform in the years to come, if a statement by a top Beijing official is to believed.
December 3, 2014 -- Updated 0855 GMT (1655 HKT)
Despite a high-profile anti-corruption drive, China's position on an international corruption index has deteriorated in the past year.
November 26, 2014 -- Updated 1201 GMT (2001 HKT)
A daring cross-border raid by one of Russian President Vladimir Putin's associates has -- so far -- yet to sour Sino-Russian relations.
November 24, 2014 -- Updated 0051 GMT (0851 HKT)
A 24-hour bookstore in Taipei is a popular hangout for both hipsters and bookworms.
November 25, 2014 -- Updated 0153 GMT (0953 HKT)
China is building an island in the South China Sea that could accommodate an airstrip, according to IHS Jane's Defence Weekly.
November 19, 2014 -- Updated 1057 GMT (1857 HKT)
North Korean refugees and defectors face a daunting journey to reach asylum in South Korea, with gangs of smugglers the only option.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 2319 GMT (0719 HKT)
China and "probably one or two other" countries have the capacity to shut down the nation's power grid and other critical infrastructure.
ADVERTISEMENT