Chinese industry regulator official faces allegations of wrongdoing

Accused of approving the sale of a state-owned food and beverage company at a huge loss.

BEIJING — The deputy head of China’s industry regulator is the latest high-level official to be publicly accused of wrongdoing by a journalist as more individuals test the new leadership’s resolve to fight graft at the highest levels.

Since the Communist Party’s new leader Xi Jinping took power in November, he’s vowed to fight the widespread graft that pervades Chinese officialdom at every level and promised to target both low- and high-level officials.

Some individuals have been taking up Xi’s call for corruption to be exposed, despite the risk of retaliation that such actions usually carry. They include two journalists who’ve made public allegations of corruption against vice-ministerial ranked officials – a senior economic planner and a top executive of a state-owned conglomerate.

Liu Hu, a reporter with the New Express Daily newspaper, became the third, writing on his microblog that the deputy head of the State Administration of Industry and Commerce had failed in his previous duties as an official in the southwestern megacity of Chongqing.

Liu wrote that the official, Ma Zhengqi, approved the problematic sale of a state-owned food and beverage company to two officials that resulted in the loss of millions of yuan in state assets. Liu said the company was valued at 27 million yuan ($4.4 million) but sold at less than a tenth of that.

The New Express Daily newspaper is based in Guangzhou. Reached by private message on his verified microblog account, Liu would only confirm that the post was authentic and that his account had not been hijacked. He said he did it to expose the alleged loss of state assets.

A man surnamed Chen at the industry regulator’s press office said he had no immediate comment on the report.

Xi has pledged to strike hard against corruption, and a number of high- and low-level officials have since been investigated. However, there are still no signs the party is willing to undertake real institutional reforms that can fight corruption, such as imposing checks on power or requiring officials to declare their assets.