BEIJING, Dec. 22 (Xinhua) -- China has held 71 local officials responsible for misconduct and irregularities related to local government debt as the country continues to defuse financial risks, the Ministry of Finance (MOF) said Friday.
A total of 57 local officials in the eastern province of Jiangsu and 14 officials in the southwestern province of Guizhou received punishments, ranging from warnings and demotion to expulsion from public office.
In Jiangsu, problems were found in credit guarantees through trust or asset management programs for 32 projects in 15 county-level areas from 2015 to 2016. In Guizhou, the ministry named and shamed five areas for similar issues.
The financial ministry also ordered local governments involved in these debt irregularities to make rectifications within a certain time frame.
The punishment came on the heels of the country's tone-setting Central Economic Work Conference earlier this week, which decided that China will continue to crack down on irregular and illegal activity in the financial sector to forestall risks.
Prevention of financial risks is key for China to win what central authorities have called "the three tough battles" for the next three years, and policymakers will both address risks in major areas and strengthen regulation of weak links.
The MOF said it will urge local governments to increase efforts in preventing local debt irregularities, and at the same time push for reform in the management of local government debt quotas and government special bonds.
China uncovered irregular local government debts worth over 6.4 billion yuan (about 972 million U.S. dollars) in the third quarter of this year, according to the National Audit Office.