Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Net set to stop 'foxes' fleeing

By Lin Zhe (China Daily) Updated: 2014-11-12 09:14

Regional coordination to prevent corrupt officials escaping with their illegal gains steps up China's anti-corruption efforts

The concluding document of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Economic Leaders' Meeting underlines the spirit of joint endeavor in the anti-graft field, which is well presented in the Beijing Anti-Corruption Declaration. Both promise a joint network among its members to combat corruption.

The declaration passed at the 26th APEC Ministerial Meeting held on Nov 7 and 8 and its reflection in the final document come in time to aid China's anti-graft efforts. The authorities have claimed initial success in the recent "Fox Hunt 2014" campaign to repatriate corrupt officials or their family members who have moved abroad taking their ill-gotten gains with them.

But the number of suspects brought back - slightly more than 100 - is still well below the about 18,000 officials who have fled overseas during the past two decades. According a report of People's Bank of China, the illicit money taken away by these officials exceeds 800 billion yuan ($129 billion), more than the annual revenue of the biggest telecommunication corporation of the nation.

While many fleeing officials have chosen Europe as their destination, more have fled to Asia-Pacific nations, especially Canada, Australia and the United States, where there are large well-established Chinese communities.

However, it was not their own cunning, but the lack of extradition treaties with the destination countries, that helped the "foxes" survive. Due to the differences in their judicial systems, China has not yet signed extradition treaties with many developed economies. China has extradition treaties with 38 economies, but not the US, Canada or Australia - the three most popular destinations for fleeing officials.

The Beijing Declaration brings hope of an end to this. Its first part requires participants not to become a safe haven for corruption, and encourages them to undertake extradition, legal assistance and the recovery of illegal assets.

Although this signals China accelerating negotiations for extradition treaties, more importantly, the declaration opens up a new path for China's "fox hunting", as even without extradition treaties, it can ask for "legal assistance" from nations that are signatories to the declaration.

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