Watch­dogs must not over­step bound­aries of su­per­vi­sion

China Daily (USA) - - VIEW -

The lo­cal anti-graft com­mis­sion in Tun­liu county of Changzhi city, North China’s Shanxi prov­ince, is­sued a re­port on Sept 30 crit­i­ciz­ing 24 high school teach­ers for spend­ing a to­tal of 1,390 yuan ($207) on a meal that in­cluded al­co­hol. How­ever, whether it has the right to dis­ci­pline the teach­ers in this in­stance has been ques­tioned as the teach­ers paid for the meal them­selves.

The Changzhi dis­ci­pline au­thor­i­ties said on Sun­day that the pre­vi­ous ac­cu­sa­tion of the lo­cal anti­graft com­mis­sion in Tun­liu county, which stopped short of ex­plain­ing why the teach­ers’ gath­er­ing was “im­proper”, was not well thought out and it de­cided to with­draw it. How­ever, two teach­ers were re­quired to crit­i­cize them­selves at a fac­ulty meet­ing, and the oth­ers were sum­moned be­fore the com­mis­sion.

Since the na­tion­wide cam­paign against cor­rup­tion was launched at the end of 2012, mem­bers of the Com­mu­nist Party of China face stricter aus­ter­ity rules aimed at re­duc­ing bu­reau­cracy and ex­trav­a­gance. In­deed, the anti-graft ef­forts have paid off and be­come more ef­fi­cient, thanks to th­ese rules and an in­creas­ing num­ber of res­i­dents who con­trib­ute to the anti-graft ef­forts by re­port­ing the mis­de­meanors of Party mem­bers.

Whether the 24 Changzhi teach­ers’ feast­ing was re­ported by anony­mous res­i­dents re­mains un­clear, but there are doubts about whether the lo­cal dis­ci­pline com­mis­sion had any grounds for crit­i­ciz­ing the teach­ers. Its sternly worded re­port was not based on a thor­ough in­ves­ti­ga­tion and the teach­ers’ ex­pla­na­tion, fuel­ing spec­u­la­tion that the anti-cor­rup­tion cam­paign al­ways picks on the vul­ner­a­ble and pow­er­less.

The Changzhi dis­ci­pline au­thor­i­ties have now with­drawn the case.

How­ever, dam­age has been done to pro­ce­dural jus­tice. Be­fore is­su­ing a dis­ci­plinary penalty, the dis­ci­pline in­spec­tion de­part­ments at all lev­els should widely so­licit pub­lic opin­ions and lis­ten to the ap­peals lodged by the ac­cused.

Dis­clos­ing cor­rup­tion cases on a reg­u­lar ba­sis is no doubt needed as a cred­i­ble de­ter­rence. Some pun­ished rule-break­ers will seek to hide their mis­con­ducts and pre­tend noth­ing has hap­pened, if what they have done is not made pub­lic. Some even seek revenge on the “whistle­blow­ers” that re­port their abuses of power to the dis­ci­plinary watch­dogs. Yet, rush­ing to dis­trib­ute in­ac­cu­rate, if not un­founded, dis­ci­plinary pun­ish­ments, is coun­ter­pro­duc­tive, be­cause they may cause un­nec­es­sary trou­ble for of­fi­cials that are in­no­cent of any wrong­do­ing and have neg­a­tive so­cial im­pacts. There­fore the dis­ci­plinary au­thor­i­ties need to dou­ble-check al­leged “se­vere vi­o­la­tions of dis­ci­pline” as well as the re­ports that are to be is­sued about such cases be­fore mak­ing them pub­lic. On their part, res­i­dents, es­pe­cially Party mem­bers, have the right to tip off the lo­cal dis­ci­pline com­mis­sion to cor­rup­tion, but they also have the re­spon­si­bil­ity to make sure what they say via on­line re­port­ing plat­forms is cor­rect and well­doc­u­mented. This is not to say they are not sup­posed to su­per­vise cor­rupt of­fi­cials. Quite the con­trary, res­i­dents should be mo­bi­lized and en­cour­aged to join the anti-cor­rup­tion fight, which in turn is likely to give them a sense of par­tic­i­pa­tion in so­cial gov­er­nance. They are just not al­lowed to over­step the bound­aries in su­per­vi­sion.

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