Corruption crackdown: Major test for China 03-10-2004 15:08

The war against corruption has been on the top of the Chinese government's agenda for many years. With the strengthened determination to fight illegal practices by government officials,China has seen an increasing number of high-ranking officials prosecuted.

The campaign over the past year offers the best evidence of the party's resolve to fight corruption.

13 officials, all Party members at the provincial or ministerial level, received due punishment for corruption in 2003. This is the first time in the history of the People's Republic of China that so many high-ranking officials have been publicly brought down by the law. And this, perhaps, is the best sign of the Party's determination to fight this social scourge.

NPC Deputy Ding Xinfa, Chief Procurator of Jiangxi Province, said, "I think there are three reasons why so many officials have been found guilty. First, the government has strengthened its anti-corruption efforts. Second, the media has become more open and free. And third, there are quite a lot of corrupt officials."

Although corruption exists everywhere, China has its own particular problems to deal with. As the planned economy moves towards a more market-oriented structure, the huge powers of government officials, a hangover from the old system, still remain. Government officials, most of them Party members, are able to trade power for money.

Corruption is a top concern of the public and is thought to be the number one factor undermining social stability. Dealing with corruption has become a crucial test for the government's credibility.

NPC Deputy Wang Shangyu, Chief Procurator of Henan Province, said, "The government is still facing a huge amount of work in cracking down on corruption, despite achievements in the past. Since we are now undergoing opening up and social transformation, it is inevitable there will be some corrupt officials. We need time to establish a fully-fledged supervisory mechanism compatible with the market economy."

Two long-awaited regulations on internal supervision within the Communist Party and disciplinary penalties for members were brought into effect early this year. The regulations have put all China's 68 million Party members under more transparent supervision and are expected to help promote democracy and intensify the country's anti-corruption campaign. The regulations explicitly list top officials as the key target.

NPC Deputy Yu Jie, Chief Procurator of Chongqing Municipality, said, "The two regulations are important documents that will help supervise and discipline officials. The old system granted a lot of power to officials, especially those at senior levels. The regulations will put them under much more wide-ranging and open supervision. They emphasize democracy instead of centralized power."

A variety of other new laws have also come into force as part of the intensified anti-corruption campaign. Furthermore, China has made efforts to sign treaties with other countries on the recovery of embezzled property and extradition procedures. With the signing of the UN Anti-Corruption Convention, corrupt officials aiming to flee the country will no longer find a safe haven abroad.

Corruption has long been regarded as a social virus, both in developed and developing countries. It can easily expand the gap between the rich and the poor, intensify social divides, and even destroy a good government. For China, a country in the process of economic transformation, a well-established mechanism is now needed to contain corruption to insure a healthy social environment.


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