BEIJING (AP) -- A powerful Chinese economic planning official has been expelled from the Communist Party and removed from public office over allegations of corruption that were first made by a prominent journalist.
The downfall of Liu Tienan, an official of vice-ministerial rank, marks a rare victory for those among the Chinese public who want ordinary citizens to be granted a bigger role in exposing high-level graft. It also signals the growing influence of social media in China.
"Liu Tienan is the most senior government official who has been punished after being reported by someone on the Internet," said Liu Shanying, a politics researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing. "It is a breakthrough, and we are going to see more similar cases like that."
Though Chinese officials routinely vow to crack down on the rampant graft that pervades the Communist Party and the government, the party would prefer to retain control over the process in part to keep unseemly details out of the public eye.
The party's anti-graft agency said Thursday that an investigation had found that Liu, former deputy director of the National Development and Reform Commission, took bribes and abused his power.
The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection said in a statement on the Ministry of Supervision's website that it would confiscate Liu's "unlawful gains" and hand his case over to prosecutors.
Liu "took advantage of his position to seek profits for others, and both Liu and his family accepted a huge amount of bribes," the statement said.
The disciplinary agency also called Liu "morally degenerate." No further details were provided.
Liu's case is unusual because allegations were first leveled against him by well-known Chinese journalist Luo Changping, a deputy editor-in-chief of Caijing magazine, on his microblog in December.
The reporter accused Liu of having shady ties with a businessman and being involving in problematic bank loans.
Luo could not immediately be reached for comment.
When accusations made online gain wide attention, as Luo's did, authorities are forced to respond to public demands, researcher Liu said.