Li Huabo, a fugitive official from Jiangxi Province who was suspected of corruption, is extradited back to China in May 2015 (XINHUA)
China's top anti-graft watchdog has vowed to keep up the intense pressure in 2016 to try and eliminate corruption, putting an end to a practice that had become widespread both in and out of China's halls of power. The Communist Party of China (CPC) will maintain a "heavy-handed approach against corruption," said a communiqué released on January 14 at the end of the sixth plenary session of the 18th CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI).
The communiqué credited the intensified anti-corruption drive, which began after the 18th CPC National Congress in late 2012, as having consolidated the political foundation for the CPC's governance. Since the campaign was launched, the CPC has worked to create a culture where officials "do not dare, are not able, and are unwilling to be corrupt," said Xi Jinping, Chinese President and General Secretary of the CPC Central Committee, at the opening of the three-day plenary on January 12.
"The CPC is fulfilling its promise of strictly governing the Party, which has won it public trust and support," said Gao Bo, a political researcher with the China Anti-Corruption Research Center of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, in a recent article by Xinhua News Agency. Gao believes the CPC is on track to advance the clean governance campaign, better manage the Party and enforce strict codes of conduct for its members.
According to a public opinion poll conducted by the National Bureau of Statistics in 2015, 91.5 percent of respondents were satisfied with the anti-graft drive, and over 90 percent had confidence in the campaign.
According to the CCDI's communiqué, the style of work and life of Party members have been improved with strengthened discipline and severe punishments.
Over the last three years, the CPC has made both arrests and discipline for corruption cases high profile, setting examples of low-level "flies" to high-ranking "tigers" who had been found guilty and punished. Ousted officials include former senior leaders, such as Zhou Yongkang, Xu Caihou, Guo Boxiong and Ling Jihua.
In 2015, 37 provincial- and ministerial-level officials were put under investigation, the CCDI said in early January. The 37, including 10 from the Central Government and nine from centrally administered state-owned enterprises (SOEs), came from 31 provinces, municipalities and regions, the CCDI reported. On January 12, Li Dongsheng, former Vice Minister of Public Security, was sentenced to 15 years in prison for accepting bribes.
Moreover, anti-graft inspection teams were sent to SOEs by the central authority starting from 2013 and have covered all 55 centrally administered SOEs in the past two years. According to the CCDI, the outstanding problems with SOEs include "abuse of power in exchange for illegal profit, personnel selection and promotion, as well as undesirable work and life styles."
A January 4 Xinhua article reported that, Wang Tianpu, the previous general manager of oil giant China Petroleum and Chemical Corp. (Sinopec Group), "was found to have taken bribes, offered benefits in exchange for his own promotion and embezzled public assets."
Meanwhile, lower level bureaucrats have been found guilty of embezzling public funds, the use of public funds for banquets, and accepting bribes. Some 29,000 officials were admonished for violating austerity rules in the first 11 months of 2015, bringing the total number of those punished since late 2012 to more than 130,000, according to the CCDI.
Yu Guodan, an associate professor with the China University of Political Science and Law, said that the corruption of low-level officials could seriously damage the image of the CPC and the government, during a recent interview with Xinhua News Agency. "A mosquito sucks a little blood but leaves a large mark, which hurts. The CPC must spare no effort to swat them," Yu said.
In addition to the crackdown on "mosquitos," "flies" and "tigers," the anti-graft watchdog has also been busy hunting "foxes," a term used to describe officials "hiding out abroad" that are suspected of corruption. China has since concluded dozens of extradition treaties with other countries, with a total of 1,023 fugitives returned from some 70 countries by the end of 2015, the CCDI claimed.
Of the fugitives extradited to China, 18 were on the most-wanted list, said Wu Yuliang, Deputy Secretary of the CCDI, at a press conference organized by the State Council Information Office on January 15. "It's the first time that the fugitives brought back to the country has outnumbered the new fugitives," Wu said, adding that efforts are underway to end corruption completely.
"With the efforts over the last three years, fighting corruption has become the firm consensus among Chinese society, gaining unstoppable momentum," said Zhuang Deshui, Vice Director of the Research Center for Clean Government Construction at Peking University, according to a January 13 Xinhua story. He also added that new measures by the Party to further the drive could be expected.
President Xi said during the CCDI's plenary session that the country's anti-corruption efforts would not be relaxed in 2016 and that the campaign against corruption should continue to cover all sectors, with "zero tolerance" shown to violators. He continued, saying that violators should be punished to "safeguard people's immediate interests" and that the campaign's achievements should be more tangible to members of the public.
According to the CPC communiqué, the Party's constitution is the fundamental code of conduct for all Party members. "In order to manage the Party strictly, high standards must be upheld," it reads. "If all Party members pursue these high standards and bear in mind the awe and fear, they will firmly obey discipline and help make the CPC forever clean and advanced."
The CPC document urged Party organizations at all levels to take lead responsibility in the comprehensive and strict management of the Party, while disciplinary departments were urged to exert full efforts to supervise officials and pursue violators. "Priority targets" of the anti-corruption drive are "corrupt officials in key posts," the communiqué said, stressing, "Stricter than the law, Party discipline must serve as the benchmark and unassailable bottom line for the management of the Party."
More supervision needed
There are about 380,000 CPC members in the central-level Party and government organs. According to a plan released by the CCDI on January 5, all government organs, including the central Party organizations, will be under the watch of inspection agencies "to further eliminate blind spots in the CPC's intra-Party supervision." One hundred and thirty nine central organs will be checked by 47 inspection agencies directly answering to the CCDI. Twenty-seven out of the 47 agencies will also be required to inspect multiple targets in an effort to improve the independence of inspection agencies.
"These agencies have direct ties with only one department but supervise more, which makes them less attached and thus more independent. It's easier for them to focus on their work," said Yang Xiaodu, another Deputy Secretary of the CCDI, in a People's Daily article on January 6. Yang also explained that many of the central Party and government organs are "tainted, and the anti-corruption situation there is arduous and complicated." He believes that effective management will set proper examples for the public service system as well as individual Party members, regardless of position.
The CPC communiqué also stressed increasing public access to the monitoring of officials. On January 1, the CCDI launched its official WeChat account on the popular messaging platform. The account intends to provide users with first-hand, authoritative information and serve as a single-click resource for users to report any violations by Chinese officials. In addition, the CCDI has a website and a mobile application, which sometimes publishes information on officials who have fallen from grace.
According to the CCDI, the anti-graft authority has received more than 270,000 tips from the public since 2013 and transferred some 8,400 pieces of evidence to judicial organs.
Yet the CCDI admitted that more work needs to be done to strengthen the system so that officials "are unable and unwilling to be corrupt." The CPC communiqué therefore called for the revision of the administrative supervision law "to further strengthen intra-Party supervision."
Copyedited by Mara Lee Durrell
Comments to email@example.com