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Former minister charged with taking bribes
Updated: 2005-11-28 13:27

China's disgraced minister of land and natural resources has been charged with accepting bribes, the Beijing News said on Monday.

Tian Fengshan, 64, who was relieved of his duties as minister of land and natural resources in October 2003 after only seven months in office, was indicted on charges of accepting 5 million yuan ($619,000) in bribes, the newspaper said.

One-time governor of the northeastern province of Heilongjiang, Tian, who sat on the Communist Party's elite 198-member Central Committee before his ouster, could be sentenced to death if convicted, legal experts said.

Tian was taken into custody in 2003 after Wang Shenyi, former director of Heilongjiang's environmental protection bureau, informed against his ex-boss. Wang was sentenced to 15 years in prison in July for accepting bribes.

Tian's trial was expected to begin at the Beijing Number Two Intermediate People's Court in the first half of next year, the newspaper said. The court declined to comment. Tian's family and lawyer could not be reached.

The Ministry of Land and Natural Resources is in charge of planning, management, protection and use of land, mineral and marine resources.

All land in China is owned by the state, but a boom in commercial and residential property in major cities in recent years has fueled corruption with private developers bribing officials to change the designated use of farmland and residential property to commercial or industrial use.

Thousands of residents have been forced to relocate and precious farmland lost to make way for economic development zones that house factories.

China's top leaders, including President Hu Jintao, have warned chronic corruption could topple the party.

The party has experimented with political and judicial reforms in recent years to try to find viable checks and balances to curb corruption, make the government more transparent and officials more accountable.

Beijing party chief Chen Xitong was ousted in 1995 and jailed for corruption, the most senior Chinese official removed over graft since the Communists came to power.

Cheng Kejie, a former vice-chairman of parliament, was executed in 2000 for accepting bribes, the highest level official put to death for corruption since 1949.

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