China is hardening its line on corruption ahead of the 60th anniversary of the founding of New China.
Late last month, three separate corruption cases involving former provincial and ministerial officials suspected of taking bribes and abusing official power moved further toward final verdicts.
Huang Songyou, former vice president of the Supreme People's Court (SPC), was stripped of his membership of the Communist Party of China (CPC) for corruption, said the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) on Aug. 21.
Huang, 51, was also dismissed from all his official positions. He is the first SPC chief judge in China to be removed for suspected violations of law and discipline.
Investigators say Huang misused his power to enable profit for concerned people in return for a "huge amount" of bribes, illegally accepting money as presents and living a "corrupt" life.
His case has been handed over to prosecutors.
Chen Shaoji, former top political adviser of south China's Guangdong Province, has been expelled from the Party and dismissed from public office for "severe discipline violations," the CCDI said on Aug. 27.
Chen, 64, is suspected of using his position to seek interests for the people on his side in return for a "large sum" of money. It is further alleged he lived a corrupt life. His case has been referred for prosecution.
Wang Huayuan, a provincial official in east China's Zhejiang Province, has been expelled from the CPC and dismissed from public office over corruption charges, the CCDI said on Aug. 24.
The former member of the Standing Committee of the Zhejiang Provincial Committee of the CPC had been investigated for alleged "grave violations of discipline and laws."
Wang, 61, was found abusing his position to look for interests for his accomplices. In return, he and his family members received a "large sum" of money and expensive gifts, it is alleged.
It is further alleged he went abroad repeatedly to gamble and that he "lived a corrupt life."
Observers say the CPC is showing its resolution to fight corruption, especially because of the upcoming celebration of the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China.
The Party says corruption is a "challenge" to building its capacity and capability.
Over the past six decades, the CPC and the government have never relaxed the fight against corruption.
Two gunshots were heard in Baoding City in north China's Hebei Province on Feb. 10, 1952, and two corrupt officials died. It was the carrying out of the sentencing in the country's first corruption case since its 1949 founding.
Liu Qingshan and Zhang Zishan, the first officials in the history of New China to be found guilty of corruption, had been sentenced to death.
The two former members had been important figures in the Party and the government of the northern Tianjin Municipality.
A CPC statement said during wartime, the two officials had remained "faithful and unyielding" even facing torture by enemies in prison, but in peacetime, they "bragged of their success and became pleasure seekers, thus becoming enemies of the people."
Before the mass public trial, defenders proposed to late Chairman Mao Zedong that an "opportunity of remorse and reform" should be given to the offenders and their death sentences revoked.
Mao said judicial authorities had decided to punish the offenders severely because of their high-ranking positions and the extended influence of their corrupt acts.
"Only if we execute the two of them, can we prevent 20, 200, 2,000 or 20,000 corrupt officials from committing various crimes," Mao said.
Wang Zhong, former Party chief of the Haifeng County of southern Guangdong Province, was the first head of a county-level Party committee who was executed on corruption charges.
His first "gift" was a 17-inch black-and-white television set received in 1979, at the very beginning of China's reform and opening up.
Later, he asked for and took bribes, and pocketed confiscated smuggling goods, worth 69,000 yuan (10,147 U.S. dollars), a "surprisingly large sum" at that time.
The former vice governor of eastern Jiangxi Province Hu Changqing was put to death on Feb. 15, 2000, China's first provincial-level official to receive the death penalty for corruption.
Seven months later on Sept. 14, the former vice chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress Cheng Kejie was executed, the first state-level official to be put to death since 1949.
Between July 2003 and December 2008, various levels of discipline inspection bodies dealt with 852,000 cases of violation of Party and government disciplines, and punished 881,000 people, including 2,386 prefecture- and ministry-level officials and 29,905 county-level officials.
Of those, 24,718 were handed over to prosecutors.
In the area of bribery in business, the SPP said prosecutors had dealt with 6,277 cases during the first six months of 2009, which involved 918 million yuan in total.
About 76 percent of the bribes were "major or serious cases" each involving 50,000 yuan or more, it said. A total of 46 prefecture-level and 751 county-level officials were punished, nearly 12 percent of the total.
China's chief architect of the reform and opening up Deng Xiaoping said that the fight against corruption should continue during the entire process of the reform.
A series of laws -- including the CPC supervisory disciplinary regulation and the country's law on civil servants -- were promulgated in 2005 and 2006 respectively to root out corruption.
Graft cases in recent years have had serious social impact as high-level officials involved in the cases usually took huge amounts of bribes and seriously damaged the public interest.
Former Shanghai Party Chief Chen Liangyu, who was sentenced to 18 years in jail for bribery and abuse of power in April 2008, was one of a number of highest-level Party officials, who were also former members of the CPC Central Committee Political Bureau, to be jailed.
Other remarkable cases include Du Shicheng, a former Party chief of the 2008 Olympics co-host city Qingdao who sentenced to life in jail for taking bribes, and former food and drug watchdog head Zheng Xiaoyu, who was executed in July 2007 after being convicted of taking 6.49 million yuan in bribes in return for approving hundreds of medicines, some of which proved dangerous.
Prof. Ye Duchu of the Party School of the CPC Central Committee warns that China's anti-corruption drive is facing difficult times.
He said efforts should be made to accelerate the building of legal frameworks to fight corruption.
The National Bureau of Corruption Prevention was set up with this aim and also to become a deterrent to corruption activities. It was established in 2007 to strengthen the combat against corruption and also conduct international exchanges in the field.