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China probing Shanghai property market after ouster of city's party chief

China probing Shanghai property market after ouster of city's party chief

China's Cabinet ordered special high-level investigations into property dealings in a dozen cities and provinces, the government said Thursday, as Shanghai leaders urged the city to uphold stability following the ouster of its Communist Party chief.
A Ministry of Construction team arrived in Shanghai earlier this week to inspect its real estate projects, the official Xinhua News Agency said. Meanwhile, the State Council, or Cabinet, has ordered top level investigators into another 11 cities and provinces as part of a crackdown on unauthorized property dealings.
Shanghai's Communist Party chief, Chen Liangyu, was dismissed and removed from the party's powerful Politburo on Monday, accused of corruption and other abuses centering around illicit investments of pension funds in real estate and other projects.
Chen is also under investigation for allegedly aiding illegal businesses, shielding corrupt colleagues, and abusing his position to benefit family members, according to Xinhua.
He is one of at least several senior Shanghai officials, and an unknown number of local businessmen, implicated in the probe into alleged misuse of city pension and housing funds.
The Xinhua report did not give any details on the findings of the Shanghai property probe, which comes amid a marathon anti-corruption campaign. Party officials have said more officials are bound to be targeted in the investigation.
Though a top party corruption buster said Tuesday that the government intends to make its operations more transparent, China's entirely state-controlled media has released virtually no information about the case surrounding Chen since his dismissal was announced Monday.
Even local newspapers have limited their coverage to reports on party meetings where officials tout their loyalty and support for the party line.
Officials at the Communist Party's Propaganda Office refused comment Thursday on a report by Hong Kong's South China Morning Post that the office had ordered newspapers to stick to party-approved material and Xinhua dispatches when reporting about Shanghai's political situation.
The officials referred inquiries to the Foreign Ministry, where staff said they should not be asked about such issues.
Top Shanghai communist officials met Wednesday and pledged to work for "social stability" while promoting "socialist legal education," the local newspaper Wen Hui Bao reported Thursday.
"The city's organizational structure for keeping stability is healthy, reliable, firm and strong," it cited Shanghai deputy party chief Liu Yungeng as saying.
Liu urged party officials to step up efforts to ensure that during the upcoming weeklong National Day holiday there would be no "serious public security or criminal cases," it said.
Meanwhile, many newspapers carried a dispatch by the official Xinhua News Agency noting Beijing's intention of building Shanghai into an international financial center _ a message perhaps intended to counter speculation that Chen's sacking amid a major corruption scandal might compromise the city's special status.
Shanghai, home to China's largest stock exchange and other financial markets, is already the mainland's biggest financial center. But it still plays second fiddle to Hong Kong in international finance, partly due to restrictive foreign exchange policies and its still developing legal system.