Ex China rail minister Liu Zhijun charged with corruption

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Media captionThe BBC's Celia Hatton in Beijing says the case will be closely watched as a test of the new leadership's anti-corruption stance

China has charged once-powerful former Railways Minister Liu Zhijun with corruption and abuse of power, state media has reported.

He was expelled from the Communist Party last May.

Responsible for overseeing investment in China's high-speed rail network, Mr Liu came under investigation for allegedly embezzling funds.

He has been accused of taking massive bribes when handing out contracts for the high-speed project.

A fatal collision of high speed trains in July 2011 caused a national outcry.

Charges were filed with the Beijing Number Two Intermediate People's Court against Mr Liu on Wednesday, and a trial date will be set by the court, state-run Xinhua news agency said.

Mr Liu "abused his power, leading to big losses to public property and the interests of the state and the people", it said.

"As a worker for the state, Mr Liu used his position to help others seek gain, and illegally accepted property from others. The numbers involved were especially large and the circumstances especially serious," Xinhua added.

Merged ministry

Mr Liu began his tenure as railways minister in 2003 and led a multi-billion dollar investment programme in the rail network.

Image caption China's high-speed railway network is said to be one the largest in the world

He was dismissed from his ministerial post in 2011.

At least two government audits - one released in 2010 and another in March 2012 - have shown evidence of fraud and irregular accounting and procurement in the handling of railway funds.

China's high-speed railway network, said to be the largest in the world, has also been plagued with safety scandals involving a series of accidents.

Since assuming leadership of the Communist Party, Chinese President Xi Jinping has vowed to crack down on corruption.

He has warned party members that the problems of "corruption, taking bribes, being out of touch with the people... must be addressed with great efforts".

Last month, China dissolved the railways ministry in a raft of measures aimed at boosting government efficiency and tackling corruption, placing its functions under the transport ministry.

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