'Sunshine legislation' to stop corruption

Updated: 2014-02-19 06:59

By Leung Lap-yan (HK Edition)

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China has left the world in awe with its explosive economic growth since its reforms and liberalization began. But the dramatic improvement in people's lives has had some shocking side-effects - notably widespread corruption. President Xi Jinping, who is also general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, has launched a series of anti-graft offensives since taking office. This demonstrates the current central government leaders' aversion to corruption and determination to uproot this scourge.

The economic reforms and liberalization have undoubtedly elevated the living standards of Chinese people, significantly. Society has experienced an undeniable move away from poverty to moderate prosperity. However, some of those who became rich first did so by illegal means. Although they are a very small minority among 1.3 billion people, their wealth is much higher than the underprivileged. But they are obsessed with ill-gotten riches so that the law-abiding public is seething with indignation over their insatiable greed. There is no question this phenomenon will lead to catastrophe if not stopped soon.

A clean, selfless image played a critical role in the CPC's arduous rise to nationwide domination by defeating a much better-equipped political foe. Without that outstanding tradition it would not have been possible to win people's trust and support. It's a shame corruption has become so prevalent and destructive within the bureaucratic establishment in the past 20 years - and during a period of unprecedented economic development. Many people now miss the supposedly clean, selfless CPC of the Mao Zedong era more than ever.

Today, the biggest concern is not the turbulent situation in the East or South China Seas or saber-rattling by Western powers - but corruption, which is weakening China from inside. If we fail to contain this terrible scourge it will fuel popular discontent and turn people against the government.

Historical records show that Zhu Yuanzhang, the founding emperor of the Ming Dynasty, routinely talked to every newly appointed head of regional government about resisting the temptation of bribery and graft. He once observed that leading an honest life on one's official remuneration is like securing the water table under the family well. It may not seem much, but is absolutely vital as long as it lasts. Getting rich by taking from the people may be easy but if you are caught you can go prison, die or ruin your family.

Incidentally, one of the first important decisions President Xi made after taking office is the "Eight Rules on Clean Governance", which require, among other things, not a cent of public finance should be spent without good reason because it belongs to the people. "Public office must not be used for your own personal benefit because it is meant for the people."

This is a standard all officials have to attain, a test of the CPC's character and a warning to all corrupt individuals. We trust the central government can win the fight against corruption and bring the clean standards back because it has the resolve and courage to succeed. And China, stronger and more advanced than ever, needs and deserves this.

We look forward to welcoming "sunshine legislation" that will ensure transparency and clean government. Then China will become a great country, free of corruption and respected around the world.

The author is a veteran current affairs commentator.

(HK Edition 02/19/2014 page1)