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Accountability can restore social morale
China Daily  Updated: 2006-03-16 05:47

This year's session of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CCPPC) closed with a bang, when a plan was announced to publish the names of members who are absent without notification.

The debate was perhaps louder as a result of the absence of famous members such as Zhang Yimou, the Fifth-Generation director known internationally for such movies such as "Hero" and "Raise the Red Lantern," and Gong Li, the renowned actress who starred in many of Zhang's earlier productions.

Both were busy promoting their next collaboration, another blockbuster-to-be, while their CPPCC colleagues sat in the Great Hall of the People discussing State affairs. Gong was reportedly absent last year as well.

There is a general consensus that if somebody lacks interest in the state of the nation and does not perform their duty as a representative of public interests, they do not deserve a seat at the prestigious CPPCC, which exists to advise the government on issues of public concerns.

The latest message from the CPPCC shows that the political advisory body may institute publication of attendance information to facilitate public scrutiny.

The CPPCC is not alone in taking measures to increase accountability.

The Minister of Science and Technology recently told the press that his ministry would investigate scandals of academic frauds case by case and publish the findings, and was deliberating over whether to archive such "blemishes."

The Ministry of Finance promised to lend a hand in the crusade against academic corruption, by enhancing supervision over the management of government money in research and development, and by installing a liability mechanism that clearly defines who is responsible for what.

In the 18 cities and prefectures of Central China's Henan Province, at the request of the Supreme People's Procuratorate, local procuratorial authorities have reportedly set up and opened to the general public online "blacklists" of individuals and institutions convicted of bribery.

By the end of the year, when the same has been done at provincial and county levels, there will be a complete resource in which all bribers identified by court will be on file for public viewing.

The apparently disconnected developments mirror a subtle attitude change in society. In spite of differences in approach and purpose, they all aim to convey the message of accountability.

Such a sense, taken for granted in all communities of fine order, is too weak in our society.

CPPCC members skipping the annual sessions are only the tip of the iceberg of public office holders who are behaving in dereliction of their duties. Compared with those who abuse or embezzle public money, or trade power for personal gain, these people are not the main target of public anger. But neglect of duties is another illness rife among officials in present day China.

The lack of sophisticated liability investigation mechanisms has more disastrous outcomes, among which is brazenness.

If misbehaving officials remain immune to public reproach, and even bribe their way up to higher positions, we cannot expect public confidence in the high-sounding slogans "to build a clean government."

If rule breakers stay bold and assured and emerge intact from repeated crackdowns, their contingent cannot but keep growing.

We see the numbers of wrong-doers swell because they do not have to worry about undesirable consequences.

The CPPCC, the ministries of finance and science and technology, and the procuratorates in Henan Province are making attempts to turn around a trend that has been poisoning our social morale.

Regardless of feasibility, this is a step in the right direction.

(China Daily 03/16/2006 page4)

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