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Officials investigated over petitioner's death
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Three officials in eastern China's Anhui Province have been suspended amid an investigation into the suspicious death of a businessman who had petitioned the central government over local abuses of power.

Zhang Zhi'an, the Communist Party chief of Yingquan District, Fuyang City, was taken from his office on June 5 by Anhui provincial discipline inspection and prosecution authorities, the China Youth Daily newspaper reported on Monday.

Earlier, the Yingquan district's chief prosecutor Wang Cheng and anti-corruption chief Zheng Tao had been suspended and put under investigation, according to the report.

The report said a joint team of the provincial discipline inspection and prosecution authorities was investigating the sudden death, initially termed a suicide, in March of Li Guofu, a veteran businessman. Li had accused Zhang of various abuses of power, which included the construction of a luxury government building designed to look like the White House of the United States.

According to earlier reports by the China Youth Daily, Li, former head of a real estate development company in Fuyang, had traveled to Beijing several times hoping to bring Zhang to justice for turning nearly 500 hectares of fertile farmland into industrial and ecological belts, hotels, a golf course, a racecourse and a landmark government office building.

Sources close to the local government said the building, which was put into use in 2003, cost at least 30 million yuan (4.3 million U.S. dollars), nearly one third of the total revenue of Yingquan district.

Li, in his petition to authorities in Beijing, said Zhang had "put a close friend in charge of the construction and sold the old government office facilities to real estate developers, too."

Early last year, Li told his family that Zhang "was about to take revenge," but he refused to be intimidated and continued his petition trips to Beijing. He apparently hid the real purpose of his trips from his wife, telling her he was buying medicine.

He was detained by the local procuratorate in August 2007. He was then accused of fabricating official documents and seals, embezzling nearly 1 million yuan of public funds, and making 610,000 yuan of illegal profits by reselling properties.

Li had been under treatment since mid-January at the Fuyang prison hospital for cardiovascular disease and diabetes that had totally blinded him.

He was said by prison workers to have hanged himself on March 13, a few hours before he was to meet his lawyer.

Li's family, however, questioned the claim of suicide. They said they saw bruises on his neck, chest and back. His mouth was tightly shut, a sign that he could not have died by hanging, said his son Li Denghui.

Corrupt cases involving offcials have been repeatedly reported in east provinces and cities, which are seeing a prosperous market economy.

The Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee on Sunday revealed its five-year plan for the Party's prevention and punishment of corruption.

The committee has ordered Party organs at all levels to seriously carry out the plan which aims at establishing a system to punish and prevent corruption from 2008 to 2012.

It also plans to intensify the supervision over officials in various Party organs and governments, making close examination of their illegal incomes, bribery, interference of market or trade and other corruptions by making use of their positions.

(Xinhua News Agency June 23, 2008)

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