BEIJING (Reuters) - China hailed its crackdown on corruption on Friday, saying "new progress and achievements" had led to a 13.3 percent increase in the number of people punished last year.
President Xi Jinping vowed to pursue corrupt high-flying "tigers" as well as lowly "flies" after taking over the reins of the ruling Communist Party in late 2012, raising expectations that he will tackle graft more forcefully than his predecessors.
Huang Shuxian, the vice secretary of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, said that 182,038 people were punished in 2013 for party discipline violations, a 13.3 percent increase on the year earlier.
The commission also investigated 31 senior officials, he said.
In percentage terms, the rise in punishments is only a slight gain over the increase in 2012, when the number grew 12.4 percent.
Among the tigers toppled since Xi's rise is the former deputy head of China's top planning agency, Liu Tienan, who was expelled from the party last year for serious violations. His case was later handed over to judicial authorities.
The party watchdog handles only internal probes of party members, and hands just a small fraction over to criminal investigators. Less than 20 percent of the cases in 2012 involved graft, while the rest involved malfeasance, immoral behaviour and other breaches. Huang did not break down the numbers for 2013.
Jiang Jiemin, the former chairman of China National Petroleum Corporation, who most recently headed the government body that oversees state firms, was also felled by a probe last year.
"In 2013 ... the fight against corruption has achieved new progress and new achievements," Huang said in comments posted to the central commission's website.
The party has warned that widespread corruption threatens its very survival. But critics argue that lasting results in its anti-corruption campaign are unlikely without meaningful reform.
Last year, high-flying politician Bo Xilai was jailed for life after a highly publicised trial over accusations of corruption, following his wife's arrest and trial on murder charges.
(Reporting by Li Hui, Adam Rose and Michael Martina; Editing by Nick Macfie)