China deputy sports minister denies arrest

BEIJING - The swirl of rumour and media speculation surrounding China's ongoing matchfixing scandal forced deputy sports minister Cui Dalin to deny he had been detained in the police probe at the weekend.

When questioned by police, Chinese officials are cut off from contact with the outside word and in the current febrile atmosphere any sports official disappearing from public view immediately prompts rumours they have been detained.

Cui, who played a major role in China's triumph in topping the medals table at the Beijing Olympics and is tipped to take over as football supremo at the ministry, said he had merely left Beijing for his home province of Liaoning.

"I am on a business trip to Shenyang to check out youth development schemes," Cui told state news agency Xinhua. "Those allegations online were just rumours."

The former head of the Chinese Football Association (CFA) Nan Yong and the country's top referee are among more than 20 officials in custody awaiting trial for bribery.

The charges could carry the death penalty depending on the amount of money involved.

Cui is not the first victim of media speculation about involvement in the scandal.

Women's football referee Shen Huangying was named by state media as one of four match officials questioned by police earlier this month but said she had merely changed her mobile number and kept a low profile because of a family illness.

Nan's replacement as CFA head Wei Di, meanwhile, said his project to clean up and then overhaul refereeing in China was going well after a five-day "re-education" camp for 200 officials last week.

"So far the rectification and education has been progressing well into the 'criticism and self-criticism' phase," he told Xinhua.

"At the end of this phase we will work on establishing a long-term mechanism and new regulations and rules.'"

The new Chinese Super League season, delayed for a week because of the chaos caused by the scandal, is scheduled to kick off on Saturday.

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