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UPDATED: January 17, 2011 NO. 3 JANUARY 20, 2011
A Long-Way Campaign
China is sparing no efforts to combat corruption under a tough situation

INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION: Song Tao (left), Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Qu Wanxiang, Deputy Director of the National Bureau of Corruption Prevention, attend the third session of the Conference of the States Parties to the UN Convention Against Corruption in Doha, Qatar on November 9, 2010 (DU JIAN)

One of the latest moves of the CPC to battle corruption was an amended anti-corruption regulation released on December 15 last year. Based on a version that took effect in 1998, the amended regulation added articles detailing punishments for corrupt officials and set out penalties for corrupt Party officials who have left their posts or retired.

With all these efforts, a total of 146,517 officials across China were punished for disciplinary violations in 2010, up 5.6 percent from the number in 2009, Gan Yisheng, Vice Secretary of the CCDI, told a press conference on January 6.

A number of high-ranking officials, including Kang Rixin, former head of the China National Nuclear Corp., and Huang Yao, former Chairman of the Guizhou Provincial Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), were referred for prosecution.

Authorities are investigating other senior CPC officials for disciplinary violations, including Song Chenguang, Vice Chairman of the Jiangxi Provincial Committee of the CPPCC, and Liu Zhuozhi, former Vice Chairman of north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, according to Gan.

Gan also said the Party's discipline watchdogs and supervisory departments of governments at all levels received nearly 1.43 million petitions and tip-offs in 2010 and recovered 8.97 billion yuan ($1.31 billion) in economic losses for the state.

Anti-graft agencies paid close attention to investigating disciplinary violations in the sectors of agriculture, medical services and education, particularly those concerning construction projects and "small coffers."

"Small coffer" refers to funds, securities and assets that fail to be listed in the account books of the CPC and government organizations in accordance with laws and regulations.

As of December 10, 2010, 25,738 "small coffers," valued at 12.7 billion yuan ($1.86 billion), had been uncovered since a campaign was launched in June, 2009, Gan said.

Being transparent

Social organizations, news media and the broad masses of the people play a significant role in making suggestions and offering advice, participating in supervision, and uncovering corruption, according to the anti-graft white paper.

Public supervision has become an important force in the country's anti-corruption efforts, Professor Lin said.

In response to public concerns, the CPC and state organs and governments of the provinces, including autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the Central Government, have all established the news release system and spokesperson system, according to the white paper.

On June 30 last year, a total of 11 spokespersons from various departments within the CPC Central Committee made their media debut in Beijing, marking what experts call an unprecedented display of enhanced transparency in Party affairs.

For many years, Party affairs had been regarded as being shrouded behind a veil and that secrecy wasn't lifted until 2006 when the Information Office of the State Council introduced spokespersons and gave out phone numbers.

Lin hailed the move as a big step forward in the Party's spokesperson system.

"It shows that the concerned departments of the CPC have reached an agreement on the importance of the system," Lin said.

She warned against "diplomatic rhetoric" and "empty talk" in press releases, saying spokespersons are supposed to release information regularly, rather than simply give infrequent, passive responses.

Meanwhile, the white paper gives a high value to the positive role played by the Internet in enhancing supervision.

It says in recent years the Internet has served as a new platform for public supervision, producing great influence and featuring a wider range of participation.

During the past year, the CCDI made full use of the online reporting platform, set up in 2009, to get tip-offs, and the number of tip-offs submitted through the Internet substantially increased, according to Gan.

He said the CCDI had also made other online efforts to collect information that might lead to corrupt officials.

Since early 2010, anti-graft agencies have investigated several corrupt officials whose misconduct was first revealed by online posts.

In March 2010, Han Feng, a tobacco trade official in south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, was removed from his post and arrested after a diary, allegedly written by him and depicting his corrupt practices, created a buzz in cyberspace.

The Supreme People's Court, too, launched a website in 2009 to solicit reports of illegal activities by judges. Within six months, 294 judges faced disciplinary actions, which resulted in 116 prosecutions.

According to the white paper, most governments above the county level have established government websites.

Many government agencies have also started using microblogs to improve communication with the public.

Beijing's police authorities launched its microblog in early 2010. In five months, it attracted more than 300,000 followers.

Despite this, Professor Li at Peking University said public supervision through the Internet was limited under the current situation.

"On one hand, the government should set up more channels for Internet users to report their findings to anti-graft agencies; on the other hand, a special law or regulation is needed to protect Internet users' rights," Li said, referring to incidents of whistleblowers being subject to revenge due to identity leakage.

Still a hard task

The whole Party must realize the fight against corruption is a long-haul, complicated and arduous task as new problems and challenges emerge, says a communiqué released after the CCDI plenary session concluded.

According to a report by the Beijing-based Legal Mirror, a total of 11 officials at the ministerial level received sentences for taking bribes or corruption in 2010, with the amount involved in each case exceeding 5 million yuan ($732,000).

Chen Shaoji, a former top political advisor in Guangdong Province, accepted the biggest bribe of nearly 30 million yuan ($4.39 million), the report said.

"Though those senior officials' cases attract more attention, grassroots corruption has worsened in China in recent years," Professor Lin said. "In comparison to those senior officials, grassroots officials are more vulnerable to power-for-money deals and corrupt actions as they are dealing with issues such as officials' promotion and distribution of funds."

A new round of leadership reshuffle for local Party committees at different levels is scheduled for this year.

The CCDI plenary session places emphasis on strict adherence to the rules in the selection and appointment of local Party committee leaders, says its communiqué.

It says misconduct in the selection and appointment of local Party committee leaders, such as bribery for higher posts, will be resolutely punished.

Besides, the communiqué says anti-graft agencies will continue to address corruption issues in the construction sector and punish officials who violate rules for project assessment and approval, cheat in the public tenders or illegally grant contracts.

Malpractice related to mining projects and land use will also be a priority, it says.

The CCDI said on January 7 a total of 15,600 graft cases related to government-funded civil engineering projects were uncovered last year.

More than 5,100 people involved in the cases had been handed over to judicial authorities.

The Chinese Government launched a crackdown on the construction sector in July 2009 and later ordered nationwide inspections on government-funded construction projects with an investment of 5 million yuan ($732,000) or more.

The crackdown examined more than 366,000 projects and found about 210,000 problems ranging from poor quality to bribery.

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