China jails official dealing with Taiwan for 15 years over graft

BEIJING (Reuters) - A Chinese court on Thursday jailed a former deputy head of the country’s Taiwan Affairs Office for 15 years, for taking bribes and abusing his position, the state broadcaster said.

Gong Qinggai used his position to amass 5.3 million yuan ($770,000) in illegal assets during the nine years to 2015, the court in the central province of Henan said, according to a brief post on China Central Television’s social media account.

Chinese President Xi Jinping launched a war on graft shortly after coming to power in 2013, vowing to eliminate deep-rooted corruption in the ruling Communist Party by going after powerful “tigers” as well as lowly “flies”.

Gong, initially accused of the crimes by the state prosecutor in December 2016, could not be reached for comment.

An investigation found Gong dishonestly reported stock and real estate assets, spent public money and took gifts, China’s top anti-graft watchdog said in April 2016.

He also played golf, a game the party frowns upon as being associated with the striking of shady deals, and engaged in “superstitious activities”, a charge often levied at fallen officials, the watchdog said at the time.

Gong joined the Taiwan Affairs Office, which is in charge of China’s policy on the self-ruled island, in 2013, having spent his prior career with the government of the southeastern province of Fujian, his official biography says.

China considers democratic Taiwan a wayward province to be brought under Beijing’s control by force, if necessary. Taiwan, to which defeated Nationalist forces fled at the end of a civil war in 1949, has shown no interest in being ruled by China.

Reporting by Christian Shepherd; Editing by Clarence Fernandez