BEIJING (Reuters) - Some local government officials in China have forged economic data and such offenders will be severely punished, the country's statistics chief wrote in an article in the People's Daily on Thursday.

There has long been widespread global scepticism about the reliability of Chinese data, especially as the government has sought to tamp market expectations of a protracted slowdown in the world's second-largest economy.

Statistical fraud and violation of statistical law and regulations have been uncovered in some places, Ning Jizhe, the head of the National Bureau of Statistics, wrote in the article.

Authorities will show "zero tolerance" for such behavior and local officials will be severely punished if they are found fabricating data to help safeguard the credibility of the government, Ning said.


China also will improve the quality of its economic data, he said.

The combined economic output of China's provinces has long exceeded that of the national level compiled by the bureau, raising suspicion that some growth-obsessed local officials have cooked the books.

Last year, the statistics bureau changed the way quarterly gross domestic product data is calculated, a move it calls a step to adopt international standards and improve the accuracy of Chinese numbers.

China has reported steady economic growth of 6.7 percent for three quarters in a row, bang in the middle of the government's 6.5-7 percent full-year target.

(Reporting by Kevin Yao; Editing by Kim Coghill)

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