Thursday, July 16, 2009

Former boss of Sinopec given death sentence for bribery

Chen Tonghai, the former boss of the China's state-owned oil refiner, Sinopec Corp., who was sentenced to death for accepting $29,012,087 in bribes, has been granted a reprieve, essentially converting his sentence to life in prison, Times Online reports. The original death sentence was seen as the harshest state action against corruption in recent years, but, according to the court, his demonstration of remorse was sufficient to reduce the penalty: "Chen took an extremely large amount of bribes; severe enough for a death sentence... But as he confessed and repented, provided tips about other people's criminal acts, and returned all the bribes, a reprieve was granted."
The court said the sentence should serve as a warning to other officials tempted to abuse their power and position for profit. An unidentified official said: "The criminal case of Chen Tonghai is one that concerns one of the highest and most powerful people, involving one of the largest sums. The influence of the case is deep, wide and shocking... and should be a profound warning to the leaders of state-owned enterprises."

Senior officials in state firms have many opportunities to ask for bribes in a system that lacks checks and balances and in which money has become the driving force in society.
Widening income gaps, corrupt local administrations and policies that seem to favor the well-connected few over the disadvantaged many are fueling spasms of violence that spring up in cities across China.
In the most recent case, more than 180 people died in ethnic violence that convulsed a Muslim area of western China last week. The spark for the unrest in Xinjiang was a brawl between majority Han Chinese and Muslim Uighur factory workers 1,800 miles away.

Over the past decade, the distribution of wealth has grown increasingly uneven. The U.N. Development Program puts China on a par with Mexico, a jarring change for a society that preached egalitarianism as recently as the 1970s. (

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