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Wednesday, 8 March, 2000, 17:09 GMT
Top Chinese official executed
Hu Changqing
Hu Changqing in court
By Duncan Hewitt in Beijing

China has executed a deputy provincial governor for corruption - the highest-ranking official to be put to death on such charges for decades.

Hu Changqing, from the southern province of Jiangxi, was executed 24 hours after his final appeal was rejected by the supreme court in Beijing.

He was charged with taking bribes worth nearly $660,000 and receiving property worth around $200,000.

In return, he issued business licences and permits allowing people to move to Hong Kong.

His crimes allegedly began while he was China's deputy official in charge of religious affairs, and continued after he became vice-governor of Jiangxi two years ago.

Hong Kong press reports say Mr Hu claimed he had made his money from selling samples of his calligraphy.

Getting tough

The execution coincides with the annual session of China's parliament, at which leaders have promised to step up the fight against corruption.

Jiang Zemin
President Jiang Zemin launched an anti-corruption drive in 1995
The sentence is being seen as a warning that the government is serious about the fight against corruption, which leaders have described as a matter of life and death for the Communist Party.

Official statistics say corruption cost China at least $16bn last year.

Just last weekend, the deputy chairman of the parliament was suspended on suspicion of taking bribes, and the authorities are currently investigating a $10bn smuggling case involving top officials in south-eastern Fujian province.

Prime minister Zhu Rongji promised on Sunday that no official, however senior, would be spared justice.

Yet analysts noted that the sentence given to Hu Changqing was far harsher than the 16 years given to Chen Xitong, a member of the ruling politburo, found guilty of corruption worth over $4m.

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See also:

10 Feb 00 |  Asia-Pacific
China 'arrests 2,000 Falun Gong members'
15 Feb 00 |  Asia-Pacific
Chinese official sentenced to death
04 Mar 00 |  Asia-Pacific
Chinese premier attacks corruption
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