Senior Chinese economic planning official under investigation by anti-graft agency

BEIJING, China – Authorities have launched an investigation into the deputy head of China’s economic planning agency, the latest high-level official to become ensnared in the new leadership’s anti-corruption drive.

The ruling Communist Party’s disciplinary agency said in a one-sentence statement on its website that Liu Tienan, deputy head of the Cabinet’s National Development and Reform Commission, is being investigated for “suspected serious disciplinary violations.”

The statement by the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection on Sunday did not provide further details. But the investigation is being seen by Chinese state media as the party’s response to corruption allegations against Liu made by a prominent journalist in December.

Liu, 58, wields significant power in his position as deputy chief of the planning agency in charge of steering the world’s second largest economy. Liu also had been director of the National Energy Administration, which carried out the country’s energy policy, until he was replaced in March.

The journalist who first publicly accused Liu of corruption, Luo Changping, said in posts on his Twitter-like microblog in December that Liu had shady ties with a businessman, was involved in large, problematic bank loans and fabricated his academic qualifications.

Luo is deputy editor-in-chief of the respected Caijing magazine. He did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In announcing the investigation into Liu, the party did not address Luo’s specific allegations against the official. The National Energy Administration’s press office initially had dismissed Luo’s allegations as “pure slander.”

China’s new leadership under Communist Party chief Xi Jinping has vowed to root out the widespread graft that has disgusted the public and undermined the party’s legitimacy.

Liu is the latest high-level official to be investigated for corruption since Xi took power. In December, a deputy party secretary of Sichuan province was removed from his post following state media reports that he was suspected in influence-peddling and questionable real estate deals.