Anti-graft rules need teeth

(China Daily)
Updated: 2010-01-18 07:54
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General Secretary Hu Jintao placed considerable emphasis on ensuring that anti-corruption measures work during his address to a plenary session of the Communist Party of China's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection. He envisioned the nation's mechanism against corruption as effective and practical.

It was an incisive point in the authorities' recent rhetoric in the fight against corruption. Years have now passed with a number of new vows and decrees on building a clean government. But people mostly have been hearing similar promising slogans that have done little more than state and restate the national leaders' resolve to keep corruption under control.

Anti-graft rules need teeth

The result is an increasingly "complete" package of rules spelling out the "do's and don'ts" for the CPC and government officials. It's been so complete that some discipline watchdogs are reportedly planning to oversee Party and government functionaries' about after-work activities. So we are not complaining when authorities brag about their achievements in the high-profile crusade against corruption.

An embarrassing contrast is that the seemingly tightening grip on corruption has not hindered the rampant spread of corruption in some public offices. And the public is getting the impression that corruption might be becoming more pervasive in some areas from the frequent media exposure of scandals.

We have no intention of discounting the achievements of our corruption busters through the years. The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection has done a wonderful job in investigating charges of corruption against high-ranking officials. Without the commission, we would not have had so many top leaders disgraced for their misuse of power.

But we believe that the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection would not have been so overburdened with individual cases if all our current rules against corruption worked right. We do not mean the current framework of anti-corruption laws are even close to being perfect. But the most daunting challenge to the CPC's clean-government initiative is no longer the lack of rules. Instead, it is that many laws, though impressive on paper, have been rendered nominal, or simply aesthetic.

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General Secretary Hu, as he has done before, accentuated the education of leading officials. Education has an important supporting role in curbing corruption. Yet we strongly feel that the spotlight must be focused on adding teeth to existing measures.

Hu appealed for instilling the principle that nobody should be above and beyond the rules and laws into leading officials. To achieve that, the most efficient approach is to place them under rigorous scrutiny in accordance with stricter standards.

An allegedly fatal defect in the design of anti-corruption measures is the unspoken assumption that CPC and government officials are morally sound, or at least more so than the average citizen. That might give the rule violators the false idea in expecting forgiveness when being caught, and thus make them become bolder and more abusive before being caught.

To correct that, all officials must be taken as what they actually are. Truth is they are as fallible as, if not more fallible than, the common person. So they do not deserve the illusionary moral high ground.