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
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 0929 GMT (1729 HKT)
Christians in eastern China keep watch in Wenzhou, where authorities have demolished churches and removed crosses.
September 10, 2014 -- Updated 0538 GMT (1338 HKT)
Home-grown hip-hop appeals to a younger generation but its popularity has not translated into record deals and profits for budding rap artists.
September 9, 2014 -- Updated 0545 GMT (1345 HKT)
Reforms to the grueling gaokao - the competitive college entrance examination - don't make the grade, says educator Jiang Xueqin.
September 5, 2014 -- Updated 1218 GMT (2018 HKT)
Beijing grapples with reports from Iraq that a Chinese national fighting for ISIS has been captured.
September 1, 2014 -- Updated 0200 GMT (1000 HKT)
CNN's David McKenzie has tasted everything from worms to grasshoppers while on the road; China's cockroaches are his latest culinary adventure.
September 5, 2014 -- Updated 0057 GMT (0857 HKT)
Beijing rules only candidates approved by a nominating committee can run for Hong Kong's chief executive.
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1914 GMT (0314 HKT)
China warns the United States to end its military surveillance flights near Chinese territory.
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 0312 GMT (1112 HKT)
China has produced elite national athletes but some argue the emphasis on winning discourages children. CNN's Kristie Lu Stout reports
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 0513 GMT (1313 HKT)
Chinese are turning to overseas personal shoppers to get their hands on luxury goods at lower prices.
August 15, 2014 -- Updated 0908 GMT (1708 HKT)
Experts say rapidly rising numbers of Christians are making it harder for authorities to control the religion's spread.
August 11, 2014 -- Updated 0452 GMT (1252 HKT)
"I'm proud of their moral standing," says Harvey Humphrey. His parents are accused of corporate crimes in China.
August 6, 2014 -- Updated 1942 GMT (0342 HKT)
A TV confession detailing a life of illegal gambling and paid-for sex has capped the dramatic fall of one of China's most high-profile social media celebrities.
July 31, 2014 -- Updated 0410 GMT (1210 HKT)
President Xi Jinping's campaign to punish corrupt Chinese officials has snared its biggest target -- where can the campaign go from here?
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 0712 GMT (1512 HKT)
All you need to know about the tainted meat produce that affects fast food restaurants across China, Hong Kong, and Japan.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 0230 GMT (1030 HKT)
Some savvy individuals in China are claiming naming rights to valuable foreign brands. Here's how companies can combat them.
July 16, 2014 -- Updated 0911 GMT (1711 HKT)
Is the Chinese president a true reformist or merely a "dictator" in disguise? CNN's Beijing bureau chief Jaime FlorCruz dissects the leader's policies
July 8, 2014 -- Updated 0344 GMT (1144 HKT)
With a population of 1.3 billion, you'd think that there would be 11 people in China who are good enough to put up a fight on the football pitch.
ADVERTISEMENT