China Supreme Court Judge Probed by Communist Party Graft Agency

China’s top disciplinary watchdog is investigating Xi Xiaoming, a vice president of the country’s top court, as the ruling Communist Party presses ahead with a nationwide graft crackdown now in its third year.

Xi is suspected of “severe discipline and law violations,” China’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection said in a short statement on its website Sunday night. He couldn’t be reached for comment.

The fourth-ranked judge on China’s Supreme People’s Court, Xi had been associated with company law reforms and led a panel that ruled on China’s first antitrust case. He’s the highest-level party official whose investigation has been announced since former security csar Zhou Yongkang’s life sentence was disclosed June 11. President Xi Jinping has vowed to tackle corruption by both high-ranking “tigers” and “flies” since taking power in November 2012.

The president on June 26 described the overall corruption situation as “still serious” despite the graft campaign’s achievements up to “this stage.” China’s judiciary has so far been less affected by the campaign. Xi has also vowed to improve the country’s courts to uphold “rule of law.”

The public investigation of Xi Xiaoming, is the first of a Supreme People’s Court vice president since Huang Songyou, who was sentenced to life in prison in 2010.

Xi Xiaoming “is highly respected in academic and judicial circles for his efforts to reform the Company Law and related legislation,” according to Jerome Cohen, a law professor at New York University who specializes in China’s legal system.

“This investigation appears to have shocked people who have known and worked with him,” Cohen said.

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