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A tougher year ahead for China's corrupt officials

Publication Date : 15-01-2014

 

Probes into senior corrupt officials, or "tigers", as Chinese President Xi Jinping put it, are likely to be enhanced in 2014 amid Party efforts to boost clean governance, analysts said.

Last year, at least 17 officials at the ministerial level were investigated by the Communist Party of China Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, the country's top anti-graft agency said.

The number was a sharp rise from previous years - statistics released by the Supreme People's Procuratorate early last year show that 30 officials at the ministerial level were investigated from 2008 to 2012, an average of six a year.

Among the probed officials last year, Jiang Jiemin, former head of the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council, and Li Dongsheng, former vice-minister of public security, were members of the 18th CPC Central Committee. There are 205 incumbent members, mostly officials at or above ministerial level, on the committee.

Probes into senior officials have been enhanced after the Third Plenary Session of the 18th CPC Central Committee was held in November, and five ministerial officials were announced to be under investigation in December.

Li Chongxi, chairman of the Sichuan Provincial Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, was investigated on December 29.

The top anti-graft commission has transferred the cases of eight senior officials, including Liu Tienan, former deputy head of the National Development and Reform Commission, to the judicial authorities, the commission announced on January 10.

A tougher year ahead for 'tigers'

Ni Fake, former vice-governor of East China's Anhui province, was investigated in June on bribery allegations. Ni was found guilty of accepting various items of precious jade, which accounted for 80 per cent of the bribery offerings accepted by him, the commission said on its website.

To improve anti-corruption efficiency, the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection has adjusted its structure with the supervision departments increasing from eight to the current 10. By the end of October, the anti-graft agencies of 17 provinces also increased the number of supervision staff members.

The commission also reduced the number of coordinating agencies from 125 to 14, with more staff members directly involved in corruption investigations.

In September, the commission officially launched its website, with an entry on the front page for the public to submit whistle-blowing posts.

The authorities received more than 1.95 million tips from whistle-blowers and investigated 172,532 corruption cases in 2013, according to data released by the commission on January 10.

Punishing senior corrupt officials is important and an effective way to boost clean governance since it reflects the ruling Party's firm determination and warns officials at all levels, said Zhou Shuzhen, a professor of anti-graft research with Renmin University of China.

"The power of China's provincial-level officials (similar to ministerial level) is very influential since the population of some provinces is larger than that of many European countries," she said.

"Officials at lower levels will curb their power after seeing that senior officials have been punished for corruption," she added.

The Party's efforts to probe senior corrupt officials are likely to be continued this year, since many problems found by the anti-graft commission are still under investigation, Zhou said.

Xi said early last year that both "tigers and flies" (senior and lower-level corrupt officials) will be punished and the power should be put into "the cage of regulations".

Ren Jianming, a professor of public administration with Beihang University in Beijing, said that the number of major and important corruption cases has been rising in recent years, and more efforts from the anti-graft bodies are required.

The Supreme People's Procuratorate said on Jan 5 that about 80 per cent of the 27,236 embezzlement and bribery cases investigated from January to November last year were considered major or important, which the top procuratorate defines as embezzlement and bribery cases involving more than 50,000 yuan (US$8,300) or misuse of public funds over 100,000 yuan.

A total of 182,038 corrupt officials were punished by the disciplinary supervision authorities last year, an increase of 13.3 per cent from 2012, Huang Shuxian, deputy secretary of the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, said on January 10.

Inspection teams

Six of the probed senior officials were initially uncovered by the inspection teams dispatched by the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, the commission said in a statement on Jan 8.

The officials brought down by the inspectors include Guo Youming, former vice-governor of Hubei province; Chen Anzhong, former deputy director of Jiangxi Provincial People's Congress; and Liao Shaohua, former Party chief of Zunyi, a city in Guizhou province.

The commission sent two groups of inspection teams last year to 20 ministries and commissions, local governments, State-owned enterprises and a university to collect evidence on corruption activities involving senior officials.

The telephone numbers and mail addresses of the inspection teams were publicized through the media, and whistle-blowers could submit tips on corrupt officials to the inspectors.

After collecting the whistle-blowing tips, the inspection teams will send the information back to the commission's headquarters for further probes.

Unlike in the past when the chief inspectors were empowered for years, the anti-graft commission granted short-term authority to the chief inspectors to prevent them from building up close relationships with the local officials.

The inspection teams can impose a great deal of pressure on the senior officials since they can report the corrupt activities directly to the top anti-graft commission, said Zhou.

In the past, the pubic seldom had access to the inspection teams because their information was not disclosed, but now the people as well as the officials can submit their whistle-blowing reports directly to the inspectors, she said.

The inspection teams have provided a platform for the people to supervise government officials, she added.

Wang Yukai, a professor of public administration with the Chinese Academy of Governance, said that given the fact that inspection teams could hardly cover all government agencies, power should be supervised through more channels, including people's congresses at all levels.

'Eight-point' rules

In an effort to get close to the public, the CPC Central Committee put forward "eight-point" rules in December 2012, requiring government officials to enhance their work efficiency by ditching pomp and ceremony.

A total of 30,420 officials, including 107 at the department level (for example, head of a prefecture) and one at the ministerial level were punished last year for violating the rules, according to the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection.

Among the punished officials, Fu Xiaoguang, a senior official in Northeast China's Heilongjiang province, was demoted for drinking alcohol with public funds, resulting in the death of one of his associates, the commission said in December.

Hu Chunhe, head of the provincial tobacco monopoly bureau in Guangdong, received an administrative warning for purchasing a luxury vehicle. The car has since been sold at public auction, according to the commission.

To implement the rules, the commission introduced policies banning the buying of gifts with public funds, overseas trips and lavish banquets ahead of major festivals.

The sale of postcards has dropped by about 50 per cent at the end of last year due to the commission's ban on the purchase of postcards at public expense, said Huang Shuxian, vice-secretary of the commission.

In April, Wang Qishan, China's top anti-graft official, told 53 inspector chiefs of the commission to keep an eye on the government agencies' implementation of the "eight-point" rules.

The authorities will continue to improve their work performance since the "eight-point" rules have been written in the decisions of the reform package that was released after the Third Plenary Session of the 18th CPC Central Committee in November, said Zhou Shuzhen, the anti-graft professor.

Many grassroots officials still behave arrogantly to the people, she said.

"Many netizens said that compared with the powerful 'tigers', the 'flies' should also be tackled with more effective measures since they are more closely related to people's livelihoods," she added.

 

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