BEIJING—Wobbling in its march toward the 2008 Summer Olympics, Beijing has abruptly sacked the senior official who was overseeing the construction of dozens of sports venues after accusing him of corruption and leading "a decadent life."
A terse report Monday by the state-run Xinhua News Agency said Beijing Vice Mayor Liu Zhihua's "wrongdoings" were "quite serious" and merited his removal Sunday.
China hopes to wow the world with the Beijing Games as a showcase of its rising stature. It's mobilizing 30,000 workers and spending more than $16 billion to build world-class venues, and its leaders have pledged that the preparations will be corruption-free and meticulous.
Any shoddiness in the construction of the venues—such as the soaring stadium dubbed the "bird's nest" because of its cantilevered design or the aquatics center known as the "water cube" because of its translucent membrane—would be a major loss of face for China.
In its brief statement, Xinhua didn't directly link Liu's sudden dismissal with his work coordinating the construction of the 31 venues in the Beijing area. It said only that Liu, a 57-year-old Communist Party official from Liaoning province in the northeast, was sacked for "corruption and degeneracy."
A Hong Kong daily newspaper with close ties to Beijing's rulers, Wen Wei Po, said Liu maintained several mistresses and built a personal entertainment center, replete with closed-circuit television cameras, in the outlying Beijing district of Huairou. It said Liu took "large sums" in bribes from foreign businessmen, and later denied them land that he had promised. The foreigners then complained to the Communist Party's Central Disciplinary Committee, the party's highest organ for investigating corruption, the paper said.
Liu had been seen in public as recently as May 29, when he went to the site in the Beijing district of Fengtai where laborers are erecting a softball stadium.
He was in charge of city planning, construction, transportation and all sports activities.
In a sign of the case's sensitivity, censors purged any commentary about Liu's firing from Internet chat rooms. Such high-level corruption cases often draw tens of thousands of postings from ordinary civilians.
According to the Hong Kong newspaper, Liu was pulled into a disciplinary meeting last Friday after attending a public event in the morning. Then he was sent before an emergency disciplinary meeting Saturday afternoon, the paper said, and the municipal standing committee of the Communist Party, China's sole ruler, fired him.
Liu previously had chalked up merits for supervising the design and construction of the Zhongguan Science Park, a high-tech hub that local authorities like to call China's Silicon Valley.
China is preparing 37 competition venues for the Beijing Games, 14 of them entirely new. About 17,000 workers are building the sites, although the number will climb to 30,000 by the end of the year, Olympics organizing committee officials said. They pledge that construction will be complete by the end of 2007.
(c) 2006, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.
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