Grad­u­ates hope to bust graft in China

Stu­dents to fight cor­rup­tion, re­port Zhang Yuchen, Wu Wen­cong and Tang Yue in Bei­jing.

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FOCUS -

Li Chuan­wen has a very spe­cific role among the other am­bi­tious, new pros­e­cu­tors: He has been spe­cially trained to nail cor­rupt of­fi­cials. Li is one of the first batch of 24 grad­u­ates of a mas­ter’s pro­gram called “In­ves­ti­ga­tion into Graft and Malfea­sance of Duty”, pop­u­larly known as the anti-cor­rup­tion mas­ter-level class, run by Ren­min Univer­sity of China and the Supreme Peo­ple’s Procu­ra­torate of China.

Dur­ing the three-year pro­gram, the 27- year- old, who works at a dis­trict prose­cu­tor’s of­fice in Bei­jing, has ac­quired a raft of tech­ni­cal skills, in­clud­ing the col­lec­tion of phys­i­cal ev­i­dence, fin­ger­print­ing and in­ter­ro­ga­tion.

Mean­while, busi­ness grad­u­ate Li and his class­mates have also learned how to use a lie de­tec­tor and have honed their in­ter­ro­ga­tion tech­niques through role- play­ing in a mock in­ter­view room, while the rest of the class ob­served the pro­ceed­ings from be­hind a oneway mir­ror.

“The stu­dents wouldn’t have at­tracted so much pub­lic at­ten­tion if China’s anti- cor­rup­tion drive hadn’t be­come such a hot topic,” said He Ji­a­hong, a pro­fes­sor at the Law School of Ren­min Univer­sity of China who founded the pro­gram. “If not for that, it might have been seen as just an­other new course pro­vided by a law school.”

‘ Tigers’ and ‘ flies’

The bat­tle against cor­rup­tion has been at the top of the po­lit­i­cal agenda since China’s new lead­er­ship took of­fice in March. The Chi­nese Com­mu­nist Party chief, Xi Jin­ping, has vowed to “put power in a cage of reg­u­la­tions” and ini­ti­ated a crack­down on cor­rup­tion, aimed at “tigers” and “flies”, ref­er­ences to high- and low- rank­ing of­fi­cials.

Af­ter years of re­search into crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tions, He be­lieves that the pub­lic se­cu­rity de­part­ments have for­mu­lated a set of ma­ture in­ves­tiga­tive tech­niques and a sta­ble train­ing and ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem.

“But procu­ra­torates, es­pe­cially at the grass- roots level, lack pro­fes­sional in­ves­ti­ga­tors who can work ef­fec­tively and ef­fi­ciently,” he said, adding that he re­gards the prob­lem as a fail­ure of skill sets and launched the course to rec­tify the sit­u­a­tion.

The pro­gram started three years ago with 24 stu­dents. When they grad­u­ated this sum­mer, 15 went to grass-roots level pros­e­cu­tion of­fices and three be­gan work at mu­nic­i­pal­level jus­tice de­part­ments. The rest de­cided not to pur­sue ca­reers in the anti-cor­rup­tion drive.

The school has close ties with procu­ra­torate de­part­ments and reg­u­larly in­vites work­ing of­fi­cials to de­liver lec­tures. Of­fi­cials and pros­e­cu­tors have pro­vided ex­clu­sive four-hour sem­i­nars and spo­ken about the prac­ti­cal side of anti-cor­rup­tion ac­tiv­i­ties.

The sem­i­nars are only open to the “anti- cor­rup­tion ma­jors” and stu­dents are for­bid­den from dis­cussing the contents of the con­ver­sa­tions and sem­i­nars with out­siders.

Eight high- level of­fi­cials have men­tored the stu­dents dur­ing in­tern­ships and ad­vised them on how to find jobs.

Dur­ing the fi­nal year of the pro­gram, the stu­dents worked as in­terns in var­i­ous de­part­ments of the procu­ra­torate sys­tem, and some even gained first-hand ex­pe­ri­ence by par­tic­i­pat­ing in ac­tual in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

He said the pro­gram looks for can­di­dates with a strong over­all per­for­mance level, es­pe­cially in logic and an­a­lyt­i­cal skills. The stu­dents come from a wide range of back­grounds; some are economics grad­u­ates, while oth­ers have stud­ied ac­count­ing, com­puter science and jour­nal­ism, skills that could be a huge ad­van­tage in their fu­ture ca­reers.

Mo­ti­va­tion is a key fac­tor. He re­called an en­rol­ment in­ter­view he con­ducted back in 2010 with an ap­pli­cant whose fam­ily had been in­volved in a law­suit and lost. The young man was con­vinced that his fam­ily lost the case be­cause they had no con­tacts within the procu­ra­torate. In re­sponse, he ap­plied for the course so the fam­ily would gain that con­nec­tion.

He said he was so sad­dened by the state­ment that he didn’t ap­prove the ap­pli­ca­tion.

By con­trast, Qu Sainan, who has a de­gree in so­cial work, said she joined the pro­gram be­cause she has been al­ways en­thu­si­as­tic about graft bust­ing. “The dream of be­com­ing a prose­cu­tor en­cour­aged me to ap­ply when I fin­ished col­lege.”

High eth­i­cal stan­dards

At the start of the first year, He and the stu­dents agreed that the stu­dents would not of­fer gifts to the teach­ers and if stu­dents and teach­ers dined out to­gether, the teach­ers would pay their own way. The stu­dents also de­signed their own class badge to in­spire a sense of pride and re­spon­si­bil­ity.

The course will help make the fight against cor­rup­tion more pro­fes­sional and spe­cial­ized, said Ren Jian­ming, a pro­fes­sor at Ts­inghua Univer­sity who is a spe­cial­ist in the study of cor­rup­tion.

He, the course di­rec­tor, is un­happy that only around half of the grad­u­ates have joined the procu­ra­tor’s of­fice. He con­ceded that some would have been dis­cour­aged by the knowl­edge that they would have to take the civil ser­vice en­try ex­ams that are a re­quire­ment for all who wish to en­ter the sys­tem.

Re­cruit­ment for this year’s in­take will be­gin in the first week in Septem­ber and the course will start in Oc­to­ber. He has al­ready re­ceived a num­ber of e- mails from prospec­tive stu­dents who ex­pressed an in­ter­est in at­tend­ing the course.

He has his own ideas and ex­pec­ta­tions for the class and guar­an­teed that the contents will be weight­ier in the fu­ture, with more in­put from lec­tur­ers al­ready work­ing within the sys­tem.

The num­ber of places on the course has been re­duced from 24 to 18 to en­sure that each teacher is re­spon­si­ble for no more than three stu­dents.

“Many staff mem­bers from procu­ra­torates have con­tacted me dur­ing the past three years, hop­ing to join the class. Al­though they al­ready have some ex­pe­ri­ence, they want to in­crease their the­o­ret­i­cal knowl­edge and sharpen their pro­fes­sional ex­per­tise through a con­cen­trated pro­gram like this one,” he said. “This may be one of the big­gest changes for the pro­gram in the fu­ture.”

Great ex­pec­ta­tions

Sus­pi­cion and crit­i­cism have been con­stant fac­tors since the pro­gram was launched. Some ex­perts think it fo­cuses on tri­fling mat­ters. In pub­lic com­ments made in 2010, Wang Guixiu, a re­tired pro­fes­sor from the Cen­tral Party School, de­scribed the course as, “a waste of time and ef­fort on use­less stuff rather than fo­cus­ing on the things schol­ars have been call­ing for over many years.”

He said he is un­der no il­lu­sion that the stu­dents who emerge as fully fledged in­ves­ti­ga­tors will some­how sweep the coun­try clean of cor­rup­tion overnight. He warned that even good ap­ples can turn bad.

“In fact, it wouldn’t sur­prise me if one of them is ex­posed as a cor­rupt of­fi­cial some­day,” he said. “I can only be re­spon­si­ble for their time on cam­pus, but, of course, some may go out of con­trol later on.”

Li felt that many com­men­ta­tors har­bor un­re­al­is­tic ex­pec­ta­tions for this small group of graft- bust­ing grad­u­ates and fears that the pub­lic ex­pects too much, too soon.

“Some on­line com­men­ta­tors have said they will look at our post­grad­u­ate work in the procu­ra­torate and as­sess the ef­fec­tive­ness of our anti-cor­rup­tion work, but this is a long-term pro­ject and I think peo­ple are over­es­ti­mat­ing the ef­fect we can have in the short term,” said Li. Con­tact the writ­ers at zhangyuchen@ chi­ and wuwen­cong@ chi­


Staff mem­bers of the Procu­ra­torate in Fuzhou, the cap­i­tal of Fu­jian prov­ince, visit an anti-cor­rup­tion ex­hi­bi­tion held at a prison in the city.

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