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Lenient sentence in China graft case

BEIJING — China’s former railways minister, Liu Zhijun, was given a suspended death sentence Monday that will probably be commuted to life imprisonment for bribery and abuse of power in one of the country’s highest-profile corruption cases in years.

Liu’s sentence is seen as lenient in a country where the death penalty is meted out even for economic crimes like tax evasion, and probably reflects the Communist Party leadership’s desire to not antagonize ruling party factions that might face similar charges.

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The official Xinhua News Agency said Liu was sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve by a Beijing court. After two years, such sentences typically are commuted to life in prison if the inmate shows good behavior.

Liu, 60, who oversaw the ministry’s bullet train development, was accused of taking massive bribes and steering lucrative projects to associates.

New Chinese leader Xi Jinping has made fighting corruption a hallmark campaign of his term in office so far.

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