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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Rising Star Takes Top Party Post

BEIJING -- Beijing's new top Communist official vowed Friday to expand the fight against corruption, which he said could threaten the very existence of China's ruling Communist Party.

The anti-corruption campaign claimed its most senior casualty Thursday with the resignation of Beijing party secretary Chen Xitong, 65, who took the blame for ever-widening scandals being uncovered in the municipal government.

He was replaced by Wei Jianxing, a rising star in the Chinese leadership and head of the party's top anti-corruption organ, state-run media announced.

Chen's resignation, which was approved by the party Central Committee, was the lead item of television, radio and newspaper reports.

"We must draw profound lessons and steadfastly continue to expand our resolution and confidence in the struggle against corruption," the official Beijing Daily said in a front-page editorial. "Otherwise, [we] may be toppled by corrupt thinking,'' said the paper, which is the voice of the Beijing party committee.

Wei, the new party committee chairman, would have had to approve the editorial, and the party's powerful Politburo likely also was consulted.

China has been fighting corruption since the late 1980s, but the campaigns have failed because those punished have mostly been lower-level officials. Ordinary Chinese, who say corruption is worse than at any time in modern China, are angry that people with power and connections usually escape punishment.

Chen's resignation is a sign that the issue of corruption has become so controversial that the leadership can no longer afford to ignore it, even if dealing with the problem requires the sacrifice of someone in the top echelons of power.

As of Friday, Chen remained a member of the powerful 20-man Politburo.

Friday's media reports linked Chen with the April 4 suicide of Deputy Mayor Wang Baosen, who was under investigation for economic crimes. It was the first time the domestic media has reported the suicide, although his death by a gunshot wound to the head was widely known.

The official media reports said Chen resigned "because he has unshirkable responsibility for Wang Baosen's case" -- suggesting that Chen himself could also face an investigation.

The editorial warned that those connected with Wang's case would not get off lightly. "Whoever has broken the law, no matter who they are, will all be strictly punished in accordance to the law and party discipline," it said.

Wang, a former aide of Chen, was in charge of approving real estate projects. Unconfirmed reports say as many as 60 city officials and employees have been detained or have resigned in connection with investigations into those projects and other irregularities.