Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

No graft escapes arm of law

By Wang Zhanyang (China Daily) Updated: 2014-10-24 07:24

Anti-corruption drive now covers retired officials to strengthen the rule of law and ensure that offenders don't go unpunished

The Ministry of Supervision announced on Oct 11 that Zhao Shaolin, former chief of the Jiangsu provincial committee of the Party, has been put under investigation for corruption, drawing widespread attention because Zhao retired eight years ago. The announcement reiterated that the anti-corruption campaign would not spare retired officials.

A few provinces have already taken measures to strengthen supervision over retired officials and order probes against those suspected of being involved in corruption. At a recent press conference of the Guangzhou municipal disciplinary agency, its spokesman Mei Heqing said that some retired officials had been penalized for the corrupt deeds they committed 20 years ago. "They are gray-haired but still have to be responsible for their misdeeds," Mei said, adding that corrupt officials, serving or retired, must be punished according to the law.

The move is welcome because unlike in many Western countries, corrupt officials in China can continue to trade power for money even after retirement. A common trick used by such corrupt officials is to "assign" loyal "subordinates" in their offices to maintain the dirty "arrangement" after their retirement and then seek new positions in other public enterprises to continue the illegal deals. By doing so, the corrupt officials not only change their share of the dirty money into legal income, but also better cover the clues that could expose them as their "loyal" subordinates need not directly participate in the power-for-money exchange.

Sometimes a retired official can weave a network of personal relations wide enough to control many powerful government agencies. Former national security chief Zhou Yongkang, now under investigation for corruption, had succeeded in spreading such a net.

Until recently, corrupt officials felt quite safe in running their rackets after retirement, because anti-corruption officials believed retirees were beyond their supervision. As a result, corruption passed from one person to another like an epidemic, and sometimes involved most officials in an agency or bureau.

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