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Top officials vow to fight against corruption
By Jiang Zhuqing, Fu Jing and Li Fangchao (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-03-03 06:08

Key central departments yesterday pledged to crack down on bribe-taking by government officials.

Joint action was promised by 22 cabinet-level departments at a meeting convened by the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) of the Communist Party of China.

The meeting was in response to recent calls by the nation's top leaders, including President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao, for stopping officials abusing their power for personal gain.

Starting from the second quarter of the year, all government agencies will step up efforts to investigate and ferret out bribe-takers in their offices, said He Yong, deputy secretary of CCDI, adding that the campaign would last at least six months.

Individuals found to be involved in serious offences will be severely punished, he told the meeting attended by members of anti-bribery task forces from government ministries as well as officials of the National People's Congress.

The CCDI official urged all government agencies to come up with detailed anti-bribery campaigns before March 10, adding that by March 20, all provincial governments are expected to report to the central government on their own programmes.

Vice-Minister of Health She Jing said that the anti-corruption drive in the healthcare system would focus on the purchase and sale of medicines.

Vice-Minister of Land and Resources Li Yuan said his ministry would concentrate on corruption in land use and transactions; in exploration of mineral resources; and in the survey and evaluation of land and resources.

Commercial bribery where enterprises or businesses gain an unfair advantage or undue favours through bribery widely exists in almost every trade in China, especially among pharmaceutical companies and property developers.

A recent central government document said commercial bribery was widespread in six areas: construction, land use, transaction of property rights, distribution of medicine, government procurement and development of land resources.

Earlier this year, a national anti-bribery leading group was set up, headed by CCDI and comprising the Legislative Affairs Commission of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), the Supreme People's Court, and the Supreme People's Procuratorate.

Last week, Premier Wen called on government agencies at all levels to make curbing corruption a priority this year.

Commercial bribery causes great economic losses to the country. Statistics from the Ministry of Commerce reveal that in the medicine trade alone, 772 million yuan (US$95 million) could be involved in kickbacks each year, accounting for almost 16 per cent of the industry's revenue.

Many cases of commercial bribery in the industry have been exposed recently.

In Central China's Hunan Province, Wang Daosheng, former deputy secretary-general of the provincial government, was arrested for helping a private company buy a local State-owned medicine company for a low price.

The tough business environment has also lured some foreign companies into offering bribes.

A Tianjin-based subsidiary of Diagnostic Products Co Ltd was recently fined US$4.8 million by the US Department of Justice for bribing doctors in China's State-owned hospitals for buying its medical equipment and services last year.

Jing Yunchuan, a lawyer at Beijing-based Gaotong Law Service, said the anti-bribery campaign will change the way many companies and individuals do business.

Also, bribe-taking is an offence applicable only to civil servants, but sometimes it is family members or friends taking the bribes. "So I suggest that the law be revised to rectify the situation,?Jing said.

(China Daily 03/03/2006 page1)

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