China Fires Head of Top Music School Over Daughter's Wedding Party

china-music-12032015.jpg Chinese graduates throw their caps into the air to celebrate during a graduation ceremony at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing, in file photo.

Chinese President Xi Jinping is taking his anti-corruption campaign into the country's most prestigious academic institutions including the Central Conservatory of Music.

The education ministry has fired Wang Cizhao, former director of the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing, after reports emerged that he used his position to help throw a wedding banquet for his daughter, the ministry said in a statement on its website.

According to the ministry, Wang "used his position" to get a discount at an arts center with close ties to the conservatory. He had also roped in conservatory colleagues to help with the wedding celebrations, the statement said.

The conservatory is now under the acting directorship of its party chief Guo Shulan, although Guo and disciplinary team leader Pang Huanlei were given warnings for their "failure" to prevent the abuse of power.

The administration of Xi Jinping has banned party and government officials from holding "lavish" events that catch the public eye, following a number of online public outcries at official extravagance.

Wang's ouster comes after someone tweeted a complaint about the wedding online in October, criticizing his conduct.

Tigers and flies

At the same time, the ministry announced a series of sanctions against employees accused of financial misconduct at the Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications and the Business School of the University of International Business and Economics.

China scored poorly in an annual global corruption index published last year by Transparency International, ranking 100th out of 174 countries.

President Xi has warned that corruption could destroy the party, and his campaign has targeted high-ranking officials, or "tigers", along with low-level "flies."

However, political analysts say the campaign is highly selective, and is being used as part of an ongoing power struggle within the party.

"This is yet another indication of the Cultural Revolution that is going on within the political system," Beijing-based constitutional scholar Chen Yongmiao said on Wednesday, in a reference to the political denunciations and kangaroo courts of the Mao era.

"In terms of the way they ruled, a lot of the party apparatus actually relaxed its grip [during the 1980s and 1990s], and now they are tightening it again," Chen told RFA.

"They want to sort out very clearly among liberal intellectuals within universities exactly who is with the party and who is a private citizen," he said.

"People are going to get the idea pretty quickly if they kick them out in an internal campaign, like they did in the Cultural Revolution," Chen said.

Veteran Chinese journalist Zhu Xinxin said universities in China are viewed as the political tools of the government.

"They are becoming bureaucratized ... universities are turning into political weapons; a part of the political system," Zhu said.

"The heads of universities and their administrative teams wield a huge amount of power, with no checks and balances," he said.

"So they are inevitably going to be corrupt ... all the departments take every opportunity to extract some benefit for themselves," Zhu said.

Politicized universities

He said the party sees education institutions as integral to its grip on power.

"They is no way they can genuinely educate people, because they are utterly politicized," he said.

"There is no such thing as academic independence or academic freedom in China, so everyone just expends all their energy getting as much out of it personally as they can," Zhu added.

According to the education ministry statement, Yang Fangchun, vice-president of Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications, was given a stern warning and fired after an investigation found that more than 2.8 million yuan (U.S.$440,000) of research funds had been spent on meals and accommodation at a hotel affiliated to the university.

Two senior executives of the university were also given warnings, it said.

And Liu Ya, vice-president of University of International Business and Economics, was also fired with a stern warning after investigators found he had been making undeclared income from part-time jobs, the ministry said.

A probe found that Liu had worked as an independent director in six companies between January 2009 and December 2014, earning around 1.3 million yuan in the process.

Meanwhile, Tang Guliang, a former dean of the school of international commerce in the same university, was demoted for using public funds to pay for trips for his family, and making some 2.5 million yuan as an independent director in four publicly listed companies.

Reported by Yang Fan for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

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