China high-speed rail designer gets suspended death sentence in bribe case

China high-speed rail designer gets suspended death sentence in bribe case

SHANGHAI - The rail engineer credited with designing China's high-speed rail network received a suspended death sentence after a Beijing court found him guilty of taking 47.6 million yuan (S$9.8 million) in bribes, Chinese state media reported on Friday.

Zhang Shuguang, former deputy chief engineer and transportation bureau head of China's now-defunct Ministry of Railways, was charged in September of last year for accepting bribes mostly from private Chinese firms vying to win contracts over an 11-year period.

Zhang was given a death sentence suspended for two years, the official Xinhua news agency said. Suspended death sentences are typically commuted to life sentences after a period of good behaviour.

Most of the money which Zhang took in bribes had been recovered, Xinhua said. According to a transcript of the court proceedings, Zhang, who apologised for his actions, said in his defence that he also negotiated hard with Chinese firms in the national interest to lower the costs of building the network.

His deputy at the transport bureau, Su Shunhu, was sentenced separately on Friday by a Beijing court to life in prison for taking 24 million yuan in bribes, state broadcaster China Central Television reported.

China's railway ministry was dismantled two years after two high-speed trains crashed in 2011, killing 40 people. The incident prompted further anti-corruption investigations of the ministry and several officials were charged with abuse of power.

China, with the world's longest high-speed rail network at more than 10,000 kilometres (6,200 miles), has been striving to repair the sector's reputation as it aims to promote and sell its high-speed technology abroad. It has also promised to open up the sector to private-sector investment.

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