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China pension fund scandal nets top statistician

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Wednesday, October 18, 2006; 11:37 PM

BEIJING (Reuters) - China's top statistician was sacked after anti-corruption investigations implicated him in the Shanghai pension fund scandal, a spokesman for the National Bureau of Statistics said on Thursday.

Qiu Xiaohua -- who announced a new "Happiness Index" this year to include living conditions, the environment and salary -- was dismissed as chief of the statistics bureau this month for breaches of discipline, bureau spokesman Li Xiaochao told a news conference.

"Relevant departments, when carrying out investigations into the Shanghai social security fund scandal, found out that Qiu was suspected of being involved in severe violations of party discipline, Li said.

"The central disciplinary office is now conducting an investigation into his involvement."

Xinhua news agency said Qiu was "discovered to be involved" in the scandal.

More than 100 central government anti-corruption investigators have descended on Shanghai in recent months to investigate money reportedly drained from the city's 10 billion yuan ($1.25 billion) social security fund for illicit loans and investments.

The probe led to the dismissal of Chen Liangyu as Shanghai Communist Party boss last month. Chen was the first member of the party's 24-member decision-making Politburo to be sacked since 1995 when Beijing party chief Chen Xitong was purged and jailed for corruption. The two Chens are not related.

Qiu stepped down after just seven months in the job and was replaced by a deputy director of a government think-tank.

Hong Kong's Beijing-funded Wen Wei Po newspaper had speculated that Qiu was sacked possibly for publicly disagreeing with central government policy on the economy's direction.

Qiu had said that the key to cooling the economy ought to be dealing with China's trade surplus, rather than focusing on over-investment, the newspaper said, but added that he was also suspected of falsifying data.

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