Graft crack­down set to con­tinue and in­ten­sify

The gov­ern­ment’s anti-cor­rup­tion cam­paign has been un­der­way for two years now, and while many sup­port the move, oth­ers com­plain that the process has taken too long and hasn’t gone far enough, as Zhang Yan re­ports.

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE -

The fight against cor­rup­tion has be­come a top pri­or­ity for the cen­tral lead­er­ship, be­cause it is key to China’s fu­ture and the le­git­i­macy of the gov­ern­ment, ac­cord­ing to lead­ing ex­perts.

At the on­go­ing two ses­sions, the an­nual meet­ings of the Na­tional Peo­ple’s Congress and the Chi­nese Peo­ple’s Po­lit­i­cal Con­sul­ta­tive Com­mit­tee, many del­e­gates have spo­ken warmly of the achieve­ments of the an­ti­cor­rup­tion drive and the de­ter­mi­na­tion to build a clean gov­ern­ment, but oth­ers ad­mit­ted that they har­bor reser­va­tions about the du­ra­tion and ef­fi­cacy of the cam­paign.

“Af­ter an anti-graft cam­paign last­ing two years, I ex­pect the Party to strengthen its ef­forts and con­duct a per­sis­tent cam­paign to crack down on cor­rup­tion,” said Du Mei, a CPPCC mem­ber and deputy direc­tor of the Tele­vi­sion Artists As­so­ci­a­tion in the In­ner Mon­go­lia au­ton­o­mous re­gion. Du urged the gov­ern­ment to strike a bal­ance be­tween fight­ing cor­rup­tion and en­cour­ag­ing hon­est of­fi­cials to per­form their du­ties with­out fear of fall­ing foul of the in­ves­tiga­tive teams.

“Given the in­ten­sity of the anti-graft cam­paign, some of­fi­cials in my home­town are wary of dis­charg­ing their re­spon­si­bil­i­ties be­cause they are afraid they may be­come tar­gets too,” she said.

Xiong Dai­jun, an NPC deputy and vice–pres­i­dent of the North Uni­ver­sity of China in Taiyuan, Shanxi prov­ince, was also skep­ti­cal: “Although some ef­fec­tive mea­sures have been taken, I still doubt the gov­ern­ment will es­tab­lish a com­pre­hen­sive mech­a­nism — in­for­ma­tion gath­er­ing, su­per­vi­sion, and pre­ven­tion — that will erad­i­cate the prob­lem of cor­rup­tion.”

Niu Dun, a CPPCC mem­ber and vice-min­is­ter at the Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture, said, “The pri­or­ity is to speed up the leg­isla­tive process and run the county in ac­cor­dance with the laws to elim­i­nate cor­rup­tion at the roots.”

Af­ter tak­ing of­fice at the 18th Party Congress in Novem­ber 2012, Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping ini­ti­ated a wide-rang­ing drive against graft that tar­geted both high-rank­ing “tigers” and lowly “flies.”

Statis­tics from the CPC Cen­tral Com­mis­sion for Dis­ci­pline In­spec­tion show that by Jan­uary, as many as 63 of­fi­cials at the min­is­te­rial or pro­vin­cial level and higher were be­ing in­ves­ti­gated over al­le­ga­tions of “se­ri­ous vi­o­la­tions of dis­ci­pline,” a com­mon eu­phemism for cor­rup­tion.

Those un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion in­clude four pow­er­ful “tigers”: Zhou Yongkang, the coun­try’s for­mer chief of se­cu­rity; Xu Cai­hou, a PLA gen­eral and for­mer vice-chair­man of the Cen­tral Mil­i­tary Com­mis­sion; Su Rong, for­mer vice-chair­man of the CPPCC’s Na­tional Com­mit­tee; and Ling Ji­hua, for­mer min­is­ter of the United Front Work Depart­ment of the CPC Cen­tral Com­mit­tee.

Some for­eign me­dia have also ques­tioned the cam­paign, say­ing it has re­sulted in Party of­fi­cials be­com­ing re­luc­tant to per­form their du­ties and has led to a down­turn in eco­nomic devel­op­ment. Some ob­servers have said the cam­paign is noth­ing more than a purge of Xi’s po­lit­i­cal ri­vals.

Chen Yong, an NPC deputy from Hong Kong who works in the fi­nan­cial sec­tor, said: “Those (me­dia) or­ga­ni­za­tions have ul­te­rior mo­tives, and have de­lib­er­ately dis­torted the truth. If China doesn’t boost ef­forts to com­bat cor­rup­tion, they will ask the gov­ern­ment why it ig­nored se­ri­ous graft and didn’t take ef­fec­tive mea­sures to cope with it.” He added that the claims are po­lit­i­cally driven, be­cause the com­men­ta­tors are in­ter­fer­ing in China’s in­ter­nal af­fairs and blame all fail­ings on the coun­try’s po­lit­i­cal sys­tem.

Zhao Hongzhu, deputy head of the Cen­tral Com­mis­sion for Dis­ci­pline In­spec­tion, the coun­try’s main cor­rup­tion watch­dog, said: “It’s wrong for some peo­ple, over­seas com­men­ta­tors in par­tic­u­lar, to in­ter­pret China’s anti-cor­rup­tion cam­paign as an in­ter­nal power strug­gle.” Widen­ing the scope

In­sid­ers said the com­mis­sion will re­dou­ble its ef­forts this year and will widen the scope of its in­ves­ti­ga­tions to in­clude all gov­ern­ment of­fices and ma­jor State-owned en­ter­prises.

Li Xiao­hong, a se­nior CCDI of­fi­cial, said new guide­lines would be is­sued by the end of June to stan­dard­ize dis­ci­pline in­spec­tion and bet­ter connect with the reg­u­la­tions to pun­ish of­fi­cials who break Party rules.

In ad­di­tion, the scope of in­spec­tions will be ex­panded and ac­cel­er­ated to in­clude as many as 2,100 cities and coun­ties, and more than 4,700 gov­ern­ment of­fices and de­part­ments, Li said.

Ac­cord­ing to the CCDI, lo­cal teams have con­ducted sev­eral rounds of in­spec­tions in more than 1,200 cities and coun­ties since 2013. Mean­while, 700 lo­cal gov­ern­ments and in­sti­tu­tions were probed be­tween 2013 and last year.

Li said the teams face heavy work­loads, but the CCDI is ready to “im­prove its in­ves­tiga­tive ca­pa­bil­i­ties and speed up its ac­tions”.

The com­mis­sion un­veiled the plans in re­sponse to Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping’s re­cent call for com­pre­hen­sive rule of law and strict ad­her­ence to Party reg­u­la­tions.

Xi made the re­marks at a re­cent CCDI meet­ing in Bei­jing, say­ing that last year’s anti-graft cam­paign had been ef­fec­tive and the fight is “a mat­ter of life and death” for the Party and the coun­try. “All Party mem­bers should make com­pli­ance with the law and Party dis­ci­pline their top pri­or­i­ties, so they will be­have ap­pro­pri­ately and build a clean gov­ern­ment,” he said. Spot­light on SOEs

At the end of the Chi­nese New Year hol­i­day, the anti-cor­rup­tion watch­dog launched a round of in­spec­tions of Sta­te­owned en­ter­prises. So far, CCDI in­spec­tion teams have vis­ited 26 large SOEs, in­clud­ing State Grid Corp, China Ship­build­ing In­dus­try Corp, China Huaneng Group and China Na­tional Petroleum Corp.

A se­nior CCDI of­fi­cial, who de­clined to be iden­ti­fied, said, “We will ac­cept com­plaints about mis­con­duct in­volv­ing SOE’s di­rec­tors in their work­ing and per­sonal ca­pac­i­ties via phone calls, e-mail and per­sonal meet­ings.”

At a meet­ing in Jan­uary, the com­mis­sion de­cided to re­dou­ble its in­spec­tions of SOEs, es­pe­cially of di­rec­tors in key po­si­tions.

Hao Mingjin, vice-min­is­ter of su­per­vi­sion at the CCDI, said: “The op­er­a­tions of some SOEs are closely re­lated to na­tional eco­nomic se­cu­rity. Cor­rup­tion can re­sult in huge losses and se­ri­ously com­pro­mise eco­nomic se­cu­rity. Some SOE di­rec­tors have col­luded with for­eign forces to trade na­tional as­sets in re­turn for huge sums of money. We will res­o­lutely fight abuses such as th­ese.”

In re­cent years, SOEs have been at the cen­ter of a num­ber of cases of graft, mainly re­lated to man­age­ment is­sues, per­sonal ar­range­ments or au­dits that re­sulted in huge losses and posed po­ten­tial threats to the coun­try’s eco­nomic se­cu­rity.

Dong Dasheng, a CPPCC mem­ber and for­mer na­tional deputy au­di­tor-in–chief, said the over­seas as­sets of SOEs un­der the di­rect su­per­vi­sion of the cen­tral gov­ern­ment are val­ued at about 4 tril­lion yuan ($637 bil­lion), but de­spite the huge amounts in­volved a for­mal au­dit has never been un­der­taken.

More­over, some SOEs’ di­rec­tors are al­leged to have bought and sold po­si­tions, em­bez­zled public funds, or abused their power by ar­rang­ing for their spouses and chil­dren to live over­seas and run busi­nesses, ac­cord­ing to the CCDI.

Some of­fi­cials bent the rules when award­ing con­tracts, while oth­ers ap­pointed fam­ily mem­bers to posts for which they were un­qual­i­fied, or formed in­tra-party fac­tions, ac­cord­ing to the com­mis­sion.

Since the Party Congress in 2012, CCDI teams have probed 14 ma­jor SOEs — in all, 118 cen­tral SOEs have been in­ves­ti­gated — and more than 70 ex­ec­u­tives have been dis­missed.

“It’s es­sen­tial that the over­seas as­sets of cen­tral SOE’s are au­dited to en­sure that they are trans­par­ent, well-man­aged and not vul­ner­a­ble to cor­rupt el­e­ments,” said Dong, who added that a regular au­dit­ing mech­a­nism for SOEs is ur­gently needed.

Ac­cord­ing to Xiong, from the North Uni­ver­sity of China, most of the SOE di­rec­tors be­ing in­ves­ti­gated con­trolled valu­able na­tional re­sources, in­clud­ing petroleum, gas, coal and elec­tric­ity. “To curb ram­pant cor­rup­tion in SOEs, we need to break the mo­nop­o­lies and al­low the mar­ket to de­ter­mine the al­lo­ca­tion of re­sources,” he said.

Gao Bo, deputy sec­re­tary of the China Anti-Cor­rup­tion Re­search Cen­ter of the Chi­nese Academy of So­cial Sciences, said: “SOE di­rec­tors should be made more aware of their re­spon­si­bil­i­ties so they will raise stan­dards and en­cour­age clean gov­er­nance. We also need to es­tab­lish a per­ma­nent su­per­vi­sion mech­a­nism to over­see the use of power and to pun­ish cor­rupt of­fi­cials.”

Pres­i­dent Xi told the Jan­uary meet­ing of the CCDI that the com­plex­ity and in­tractabil­ity of cor­rup­tion means China still faces tough chal­lenges, and warned that the battle is far from over. Anti-cor­rup­tion mech­a­nisms have been put in place but they aren’t per­fect, so cor­rup­tion still ex­ists and temp­ta­tions re­main, he said.

Ac­cord­ing to Zhao Hongzhu, deputy head of the CCDI, some of­fi­cials still abuse their power and ac­cept huge bribes be­cause they can quickly line their pock­ets with mil­lions, or even hun­dreds of mil­lions, of yuan.

Oth­ers use their pow­ers to es­tab­lish close po­lit­i­cal or eco­nomic in­ter­ests with other of­fi­cials and com­pany di­rec­tors. Many se­cretly form fac­tions, he said. The cen­tral lead­er­ship is fully aware that, his­tor­i­cally, cor­rup­tion was at the heart of sev­eral dy­nas­tic col­lapses and the fail­ures of es­tab­lished po­lit­i­cal par­ties.

The CCDI said it would at­tach great im­por­tance to in­ves­ti­gat­ing of­fi­cials who con­tinue to act cor­ruptly or dis­play low moral stan­dards even in the face of the anti-graft cam­paign.

Other tar­gets will in­clude of­fi­cials in­volved with po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic cliques, and those with poor public rep­u­ta­tions. The pro­bity of of­fi­cials likely to win pro­mo­tion to key po­si­tions will also be in­ves­ti­gated to en­sure smooth progress.

“Ef­forts to rec­tify the four un­de­sir­able work styles — for­mal­ism, bu­reau­cratism, he­donism and ex­trav­a­gance — should con­tinue,” Pres­i­dent Xi said. “Our de­ter­mi­na­tion to use strong medicine to cure ill­ness will not fal­ter, and our strength to rid our bones of poi­son will not di­min­ish,” he added. Con­tact the writer at zhangyan1@ chi­nadaily.com.cn Sun Ruisheng con­trib­uted to this story.

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