Say­ing ‘no’ to gifts will build clean gov­ern­ment

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE -

With the Spring Fes­ti­val ap­proach­ing, the cen­tral au­thor­i­ties have again warned of­fi­cials to de­sist from cor­rup­tion. The dis­ci­pline in­spec­tors have warned of­fi­cials against tak­ing gifts or money dur­ing the hol­i­day, or face im­me­di­ate re­moval from of­fice and in­ves­ti­ga­tion ac­cord­ing to the Party’s dis­ci­pline and the coun­try’s laws.

Usu­ally, hol­i­days and fes­ti­vals see an in­crease in bribery. Ac­cord­ing to me­dia re­ports, in less than two years since the cen­tral lead­er­ship’s an­nounce­ment that of­fi­cials need to fol­low the rules to re­duce bu­reau­cratism and prac­tise aus­ter­ity to main­tain close ties with the public, re­ceiv­ing gifts and money dur­ing hol­i­days, wed­dings and fu­ner­als have been the fourth most se­ri­ous form of cor­rup­tion and more than 5,000 of­fi­cials have been pulled up for it. Many cor­rupt of­fi­cials have ad­mit­ted that their first step to­ward graft was tak­ing gifts or money dur­ing hol­i­days or fes­ti­vals.

Hol­i­day or fes­ti­val gifts (which in­clude cash) have al­ways been used as an ex­cuse to cover up cor­rup­tion. Fes­ti­vals and spe­cial so­cial events are still im­por­tant for Chi­nese peo­ple, and giv­ing and re­ceiv­ing gifts dur­ing such oc­ca­sions are a com­mon prac­tice in China, which many of­fi­cials use as a pre­text to take bribes.

In 2011, theNan­jing Gu­lou Dis­trict Peo­ple’s Procu­ra­torate and Nan­jing Uni­ver­sity In­sti­tute for Crime Pre­ven­tion and Con­trol jointly in­ter­viewed 150 cor­rupt of­fi­cials in pri­son, and 76 per­cent of them said they as­sumed that re­ceiv­ing gifts or cash vouch­ers dur­ing hol­i­days was an ac­cept­able so­cial be­hav­ior. In fact, many more cor­rupt of­fi­cials have used the cover of such so­cial con­ven­tion to re­ceive bribes.

Since it is dif­fi­cult to dis­tin­guish be­tween fes­ti­val gifts that are ac­tu­ally bribes and those that are not, strictly pro­hibit­ing of­fi­cials from re­ceiv­ing any gift or money is the best way to pre­vent cor­rup­tion.

At least 92 coun­tries have laws that for­bid of­fi­cials from tak­ing cer­tain gifts. In many coun­tries, not only of­fi­cials and civil ser­vants, but also pro­fes­sion­als such

as teach­ers and doc­tors are pro­hib­ited from re­ceiv­ing ex­pen­sive gifts. Some coun­tries have spec­i­fied the value of the gifts a gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial can ac­cept. For ex­am­ple, in Ber­lin, civil ser­vants, in­clud­ing teach­ers, fire­fight­ers and po­lice, can­not ac­cept gifts that cost more than €10 ($11 or 70 yuan), andMas­sachusetts, Wis­con­sin and South Carolina states in Amer­ica for­bid civil ser­vants from ac­cept­ing any kind of gift, even a cup of cof­fee.

Ori­en­tal cul­ture can­not be used as an ex­cuse for tak­ing ex­pen­sive gifts ei­ther. In Sin­ga­pore, which is fa­mous for clean gov­er­nance, for in­stance, civil ser­vants are re­quired to re­turn all the gifts they re­ceive to the donors; if they can­not do so they have to hand them over to the au­thor­i­ties. And if a civil ser­vant re­ceives a gift worth more than 50 Sin­ga­pore dol­lars ($37 or 230 yuan) with­out per­mis­sion, he/ she could face bribery charges.

More­over, in the Hong Kong Spe­cial Ad­min­is­tra­tive Re­gion, reg­u­la­tions clearly stip­u­late the value and type of gifts civil ser­vants can ac­cept. Even the gift money civil ser­vants and their chil­dren re­ceive dur­ing the Spring Fes­ti­val are un­der the su­per­vi­sion of law. If civil ser­vants re­ceive gift money as an in­cen­tive or re­ward for do­ing fa­vors to any­one, they vi­o­late the law for which they face se­vere penal­ties.

Such strict re­stric­tions on civil ser­vants have helped de­velop a good en­vi­ron­ment for clean gov­er­nance in­stead of un­der­min­ing so­cial com­mu­ni­ca­tions. Strict reg­u­la­tions for civil ser­vants and other of­fi­cials are crit­i­cal to the fight against cor­rup­tion. But civil ser­vants have to be given suit­able ma­te­rial re­wards to meet their rea­son­able de­mands. The higher au­thor­i­ties could do so by in­creas­ing the salaries of civil ser­vants to a de­cent level, if it is not pos­si­ble to of­fer them high salaries as some other gov­ern­ments do to pre­vent cor­rup­tion. The au­thor is a writer with China Daily. wangy­iqing@chi­


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