Discipline watchdog to battle corruption

By Wu Jiao and Li Fangchao (China Daily/Xinhua)
Updated: 2007-01-11 07:06

Fight against corruption to get more intense

As China's anti-corruption efforts gained attention and momentum last year, a strong message was sent out at this year's plenary session curbing corruption at its source and widening the scope of investigations.

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"At present, the clean governance construction and anti-corruption drive remains an arduous task," said Hu Jintao, president of China and general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, in a speech at Tuesday's session of the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI).

Hu said the Party should incorporate anti-corruption work in the economic, political, cultural and social spheres as well in the development of the Party itself.

He said the Party should extend the scope of investigations to nip corruption at its source.

Hu also stressed the importance of ethics, proper supervision and self-discipline of officials; matters which will be given close attention this year.

Experts have hailed the stepped-up anti-corruption drive.

"This shows the country is paying more attention to curbing corruption at the source, and widening the scope of investigations," said Ren Jianming, a professor from Tsinghua University.

"Culture and social affairs have now also been included," he said.

"This shows an increasing awareness of the need to change from the concept level to taking a holistic view."

China made significant progress last year in its anti-corruption drive with the arrests of a number of senior officials, an indication of how seriously the problem is being dealt with.

A total of 444 government officials in North China's Shanxi Province were also disciplined in a recent campaign.

Apart from the crackdown on power abuse, illegal private gains and dereliction of duty, the Party has also targeted bribery in the commercial sector.

Statistics show that during the first 10 months of last year, China dealt with 8,010 commercial bribery cases, involving 880 million yuan ($110 million). Procuratorates of various levels approved the arrest of 5,117 suspects and prosecuted 4,212 of them.

A series of tougher measures were also adopted last year. Early last month, the central government reshuffled the local discipline inspectors of Shanghai, Beijing and Tianjin, following the uncovering of three big corruption cases.

"The move is a step forward in the independence of the country's supervision system," Ren said.

The inspectors at provincial level are usually nominated and from the local provincial governments, Ren said.

Although the inspectors are still under the authority of local Party heads, the move is still a "good attempt" at improving the current system, Ren said.

Mao Shoulong, a professor of Renmin University, said that any major breakthrough would still take some time.

"The current situation is still one where those who have information on corruption cannot do anything, while those who have the power, do not have the information," Mao said.

He suggested increasing routine inspections from high-level officials and encouraging low level officials to be more forthcoming in divulging information about corruption.

The country is also considering strengthening the implementation of a reporting system which involves senior officials, especially ministry level, submitting personal details about themselves, like their homes, marriages and relatives.

The Ministry of Finance last month banned departments of the central government from holding meetings in places of interest and officials from living in luxurious hotels during work trips.

A supervision regulation within the Party, the first of its kind, took effect recently requiring all heads of departments to be more democratic and transparent in their decisions. This is to avoid decisions being taken solely by one person.

Ren warned that corruption could be spreading to almost every segment of society.

"Corruption now may not only be centered with officials," he said.

"Students bribe teachers to get a pass; patients bribe doctors to get better care; companies bribe companies in business," Ren said.

He said the country should speed up its legislative process to define the various aspects of corruption.

Ren cited a recent case in Hong Kong, where a student who bribed a teacher, was sentenced to six months' jail.

"The case may not have come to trial in the Chinese mainland due to the lack of related laws," he said.

Ren said that although reform is a gradual process, attempts should be made to deal with some impending problems.

"Like the appointment of local inspectors from the other places. It could gradually become a regulation," he said.

The Chinese government has been fighting a wave of top-level corruption cases that threaten to undermine its legitimacy.

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