The Communist Party of China‘s (CPC) disciplinary body last week announced its latest victory in the fight against corruption, declaring that efforts to tighten the net on “naked” officials – or those who remain in the country while their spouses and children live abroad – had yielded success.
“A number of officials who have attempted to run away have been stopped, while some officials already overseas have been brought to justice,” the Ministry of Supervision declared in a statement posted on its website.
Authorities have implemented various measures including monitoring the whereabouts of officials’ family members, scrutinising their travel, controlling their passports and investigating the source of large sums of money transferred overseas.
But experts say greater determination from authorities is essential, including increased transparency of anti-corruption efforts and tougher laws to stamp out graft.
Since the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection launched its campaign in 2007 to prevent corrupt officials from fleeing overseas, a pilot coordination mechanism has been rolled out in 10 provinces and municipalities, including Shanghai, Jiangsu, Guangdong, Fujian, Shandong and Henan.
Although the State anti-corruption watchdog has not revealed details on how many officials have been caught or what specific measures have been adopted, reports suggest local governments have been using different strategies with varying degrees of success.
“The key to flight prevention lies in stopping corrupt officials from transferring embezzled funds,” the Oriental Morning Post reported last week, citing an unnamed official from the CPC Jiangsu Provincial Commission for Discipline Inspection.
As one of the 10 pilot provinces, Jiangsu has seen cases of corrupt officials laundering money under the guise of business transactions, the report said.
Authorities in Guangdong, another pilot province, have also kept a close eye on officials’ travel to and from the Chinese mainland.
Liu Xiaohua, Party head of Zhanjiang, Guangdong, revealed in January that the planned promotion of an official was scrapped after it was revealed he visited Hong Kong, where his family had moved to and settled, more than 20 times within a year.
In many local governments, officials’ passports are kept by administrators and only given out after strict personal assessment or for formal overseas tours.
Nevertheless, some corrupt officials manage to fly under the radar. Liu Defu, a former bureau chief in Guangzhou, filed for 20 days’ leave in 2010 and went to the US with his passport on a “personal” trip. He never returned and today lives with his family, who emigrated to the US years earlier, according to a report from the Legal Daily.
Lack of transparency
While the first stage of the campaign appears to have made progress, the government’s reluctance to reveal more about its crackdown has left some people questioning the effectiveness of its anti-corruption measures.
“Such measures cannot completely stop corrupt officials from fleeing the country,” Zhu Lijia, a professor at the Chinese Academy of Governance, told the Global Times. “The obvious existence of ‘naked’ officials indicates the country’s anti-corruption efforts may have struggled to tackle the problem.”
While there are no statistics about just how many “naked” officials there are in China, a blue book on the country’s legal system released by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in February revealed that nearly 40 percent of officials surveyed in 23 provinces and cities wouldn’t object to their spouse or children emigrating abroad.
One of China’s most infamous “naked” officials is Pang Jiayu, the former mayor of Baoji in Northwest China’s Shaanxi Province. Pang’s wife and son emigrated to Canada in 2002, but before the corrupt ex-mayor could join them he was arrested and sentenced in 2008 to a 12-year jail term for bribery and dereliction of duty. His family is reportedly still living a life of luxury in Canada.
Enforcing full asset disclosure for officials could prevent them becoming corrupt and fleeing abroad, Zhu suggested.
It’s a proposal backed by Li Yongzhong, an anti-corruption expert, who believes it should go further to include assets of family members.
“Asset disclosure is not feasible to cover all officials at this time. But the regulation should target officials primed for promotion or eligible to be listed as reserve cadres,” Li told the Global Times.
In addition to tighter domestic measures, the country should also sign extradition tracts with overseas countries and regions, suggested Li.
Winning people’s trust
Experts note the responsibility of tackling the problem and weeding out corruption lies firmly with the Party, adding the government must adopt a determined approach.
“The government has always made efforts to address the issue, but many measures have proven ineffective in terms of the number of fleeing officials who haven’t been stopped,” Lin Zhe, a professor at the Party School of the Central Committee of the CPC, told the Global Times.
Local governments also appear keen to step up the fight against “naked” officials, with South China’s Guangdong Province proposing in a paper circulated in January that officials whose family members live overseas would be banned from taking senior positions to minimize the possibility of looting funds or embezzling taxpayer money.
While many people in the public have applauded Guangdong’s move and urged other provinces to follow suit, Li said the measure didn’t go far enough.
“If officials send their wife or children overseas, they shouldn’t hold any government positions. Only by taking such a strong stance can the problem be resolved,” said Li.
The flagship Party magazine, Qiushi, or “Seeking Truth,” will publish an article today by He Guoqiang, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee.
He wrote in the article that China will take further steps to combat corruption and build a clean government in order to benefit people and gain people’s trust.Li Qiaoyi
- Guangdong anti-graft pilot plan ‘may not be enough’ (chinadailymail.com)
- Huge Number of Officials Poised to Escape China (theepochtimes.com)
- How Many Fugitives are There in China? (chinadailymail.com)