An erstwhile senior executive at China Mobile has been sentenced to death for bribery and corruption. However, the sentence is suspended for two years to give 53 year-old Zhang Chunjiang, (who confessed to his crimes) the chance to show "proper contrition". If he proves himself to be sufficiently abject and remorseful the death sentence will be commuted to life imprisonment. Martyn Warwick reports.
The Chinese authorities, acutely aware of the growing disparity between the "haves and have nots" in the communist paradise frequently focus their zealous revolutionary attention on different industrial sector and markets, carrying out ruthless purges of those deemed to have been involved in corrupt practices.
In recent months ICT has come under their basilisk gaze and the investigations into the probity and political purity of top executives in the telecoms, manufacturing, Internet and content industries are particularly intense and high profile at the moment because of signals from the Politburo indicating that major changes in China's leadership will take place in 2013.
That means vicious power struggles are being played out within the upper echelons of the Communist Party with those vying for position calling into question the relationships their political rivals might have with leading industrialists and demanding investigations into them.
Thus, in addition to Zhang Chunjiang, as many as a dozen other China Mobile execs are under investigation as well as the top brass of manufacturing companies, ISPs and content providers.
The country's three state-controlled telcos, China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom have been singled-out for "particular attention". Sinologists believe the authorities are cleaning the Augean stables prior to the much-vaunted and equally oft-delayed floatation of the companies on the Shanghai stock exchange.
In Zhang's case, a court in Hebei province in northern China found that he had been in receipt of the equivalent of US$1.5 million in bribes over the 15 years between1994 and 2009 when he was a rising star China's massive communications sector.
During that time he went from being a provincial administrator for China's postal service to general manager of China Netcom. He was also promoted politically and became a luminary in the Communist party as well as deputy general manager of China Mobile.
He was still working in that job when, in December 2009, he was arrested and than dismissed form all his posts on suspicion of having committed "serious breaches of party discipline": an accusation, that, (as Zhang has found out) can, quite literally, be a matter of life or death.
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