The indictment said as a staff member of a state organ, Liu engaged in malpractices for personal gains and abuse of power, leading to huge losses of public properties and of the interests of the state and its people.
With “especially serious circumstances,” Liu should be subject to criminal liabilities for bribe taking and abuse of power according to law.
The prosecution comes two years after he was dismissed from his post for serious disciplinary violations. He was also stripped of his position as Communist Party of China (CPC) chief at the ministry.
Liu had accepted massive bribes and bore major responsibility for rampant corruption in the railways industry, according to an earlier statement of the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection.
Liu, who was rumoured to have had 19 mistresses at the height of his power, embezzled almost one billion yuan during his time at the head of one of China’s most powerful ministries.
The ex-minister’s downfall was accelerated in the wake of the Wenzhou high-speed rail crash which killed 40 people. Liu, already under investigation over corruption allegations, was held ultimately responsible for numerous safety failures on the Yongtaiwen line which led to the crash.
Evan Osnos, in his fantastic investigation of the Wenzhou crash, details just how Liu’s railways ministry operated:
The obsession with speed was all-encompassing. The system was growing so fast that almost everything a supplier produced found a buyer, regardless of quality. According to investigators, the signal that failed in the Wenzhou crash was developed over six months, beginning in June, 2007, by the state-owned China Railway Signal and Communication Corporation. The company had a staff of some thirteen hundred engineers, but it was overwhelmed by demands on its time, and crash investigators discovered that those in charge of the signal performed only a “lax” inspection, which “failed to discover grave flaws and major hidden dangers.” The office in charge was “chaotic,” a place where “files went missing.” Nevertheless, the signal passed inspection in 2008 and was installed across the country. When the industry gave out awards for new technology that year, the signal took first prize. But an engineer inside the company subsequently told me that he was not surprised to discover that the job had been rushed.
There were other suspicious factors as well. In April, 2010, the chairman of Japan Central Railway, Yoshiyuki Kasai, said that China was building trains that drew heavily on Japanese designs. When Kawasaki Heavy Industries threatened to sue the Chinese for passing off its technology as their own, the Railway Ministry in Beijing dismissed the complaint as evidence of “a fragile state of mind and a lack of confidence.” Kasai also pointed out that China was operating the trains at speeds twenty-five per cent faster than those permitted in Japan. “Pushing it that close to the limit is something we would absolutely never do,” he told the London Financial Times.
In the last days before the crash, the rush to build the railways added a final, lethal factor to the mix. In June, the government had staged the début of the most prominent line yet—Beijing to Shanghai—to coincide with the ninetieth anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party. A full year had been slashed from the construction schedule, and the first weeks of the run were marred by delays and power failures. According to a manager in the ministry, high-speed-rail staff were warned that further delays would affect the size of their bonuses. On the night of July 23, 2011, when trains began to stack up, dispatchers and maintenance staff raced to repair the faulty signal and ignored the simplest solution: stop the trains and regain the signal. Wang Mengshu, a scholar in the Chinese Academy of Engineering who was deputy chief of the committee investigating the crash, told me, “The maintenance people weren’t familiar enough with their jobs, and they didn’t want to stop the train. They didn’t dare.”
Liu is the highest ranking official to be charged in an anti-corruption investigation, with the exception of Bo Xilai, who has yet to be brought to trial.