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China investigates former vice-minister of environmental protection

[SHANGHAI] China's former vice-minister of environmental protection has been placed under investigation for "severe disciplinary and law violation", the Communist Party's anti-corruption agency said on Thursday, using a common euphemism for corruption.

The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) said in a statement on its website that Zhang Lijun, who served in his position between 2008-2013, was being investigated, without providing further details.

Environmental degradation is a sensitive topic in China, with thousands of protests sparked every year by concerns about pollution, particularly from factories.

In February, the environment ministry was reprimanded by the CCDI for problems including interference by ministry officials and their relatives in environmental impact assessments.

President Xi Jinping launched a war against corruption after taking over as party and military chief in late 2012, waging a campaign that has brought down numerous senior officials, including former security tsar Zhou Yongkang.