China's hunt for former officials suspected of corruption who are living overseas has recently received a boost. At an APEC event in Beijing in early November, major Asia-Pacific economies agreed to adopt the Beijing Declaration on Fighting Corruption and to establish the APEC Network of Anti-Corruption Authorities and Law Enforcement Agencies. Coupled with China's ongoing anti-graft measures, these new initiatives will make it more difficult for officials who have absconded to continue avoiding prosecution for alleged criminal acts. For those who intend to preemptively flee in order to evade such charges, a number of escape routes have now been blocked.
Although corruption exists in many countries, China has perhaps the largest number of individuals suspected of corruption who have fled overseas. From 2008 to 2013, China arrested 6,694 alleged perpetrators of corruption who had traveled abroad to escape charges, representing only a small portion of those who have done so. Intercepting such fugitives is but one measure in China's intensified efforts to battle corruption and build a clean and transparent system of governance.
On July 22, the Ministry of Public Security launched the Fox Hunt 2014 campaign targeting economic fugitives. On September 26, the Supreme People's Procuratorate launched its own six-month campaign to apprehend those suspected of work-related crimes that currently reside in other countries. The nation's top prosecutorial body has stated it now requires procuratorates at all levels to spare no effort in pursuing and bringing into custody suspects based abroad and to use the tools of the law to seize illegal assets.
Pursuing suspects of professionally related crimes overseas and seizing illegal assets are both complicated processes. Cooperation between law enforcement authorities from different countries should be increased. China needs to bolster ties with other nations in terms of public security, foreign affairs, legal matters and banking so as to build coordination mechanisms for pursuing those suspects. The formation of the APEC anti-corruption network marks a new step toward forming a regional network against corruption.
At present, former Chinese officials suspected of graft and other economic fugitives can live in some Western countries and escape charges—either because China has not signed criminal judicial assistance treaties with these countries or owing to these countries' refusal to repatriate them out of misgivings concerning China's judicial system. But this should not dissuade China from establishing and improving anti-corruption cooperation systems with partner nations. In this way, the benefit of the two aforementioned campaigns can be maximized.
Since China's economy has become increasingly globalized, it is imperative that the country enhance international judicial cooperation in order to ensure that perpetrators of corruption and other white-collar crimes, will soon have nowhere left to hide.