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September 26, 2017

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China's 46th richest woman ousted from political body

BEIJING -- A businesswoman ranked as one of the 50 wealthiest in China has been ousted from a senior political organization, with state media on Friday pointing to her links to a former high-ranking official facing graft allegations.

Liu Yingxia, who was listed as China's 46th richest woman with assets of four billion yuan (US$660 million) by wealth publisher the Hurun Report last year, was removed as a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), the Xinhua News Agency reported late Thursday.

The CPPCC is a debating chamber that is part of the Communist Party-controlled governmental structure and usually meets once a year in March. Xinhua described her as its "most pretty" member at a previous meeting.

The official news agency gave no reason for her banishment.

Liu, born in 1972, founded a company in the northeastern city of Harbin at the age of 20 that now operates in the property and road construction sectors, the Xiaoxiang Morning Herald reported Friday.

She is allegedly married to the son of a high-ranking military officer, it said.

In 2012, a fund of hers invested in a 110-billion-yuan oil pipeline project with China National Petroleum Corp. (CNPC) and two other state-run organizations, the newspaper said.

Jiang Jiemin, CNPC's then-chairman, attended the signing ceremony for the deal, it added.

It was reportedly the first time that a private firm had been allowed to take part in oil pipeline construction in China.

The ruling party's internal graft watchdog announced in September that Jiang was under investigation for "suspected severe violation of discipline," usually a euphemism for corruption.

Jiang, who is believed to be a close associate of China's ex-chief of internal security Zhou Yongkang, held a minister-level position as head of the government body overseeing state-owned assets before his fall.

So far 21 officials at vice-ministerial level or above have fallen since the once-in-a-decade power transition that anointed Xi Jinping as the party's general secretary.

Among the 21, at least six are believed to have been proteges of Zhou.

The New York Times in December cited "sources with elite political ties" as saying that Xi had given the go-ahead for a corruption investigation into Zhou himself.

It would be the first time in decades that such a high-ranking figure has been targeted in a formal inquiry, and would send shockwaves through China's elite. PSC members have generally been regarded as untouchable even after retirement.

The Xiaoxiang Morning Herald said four other people had been stripped of their CPPCC memberships and were under investigation for "violations of discipline or the law."

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