China's top legislature on Thursday ratified the United Nation's Convention Against Corruption with a unanimous vote.
"The unanimous vote demonstrates the determination of the top lawmaking body to stamp out the prevailing corruption in collaboration with the international community," said Li Mingyu, member of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC).
The ratification means that China is one of the first group of more than 30 countries to enforce the international law, which will go into effect on December 14 this year.
The convention "is conducive to the repatriation of corrupt criminals who flee the country and the recovery of Chinese assets illegally transferred to foreign lands," Premier Wen Jiabao said in a bill submitted to the legislature on Saturday.
Chinese police authorities said that by the end of last year, more than 500 Chinese suspects of economic crimes, mostly corrupt officials or executives of state-owned companies, were at large in foreign countries having taken with them a total of 70 billion yuan (US$ 8.4 billion) in public funds. Only a few of them have been extradited to China.
The UN anti-corruption convention, adopted by the UN General Assembly on October 31, 2003, provides for the prevention, criminalization, international cooperation, assets recovery and implementation mechanism in the fight against transnational crimes of corruption. 30 ratifications were required for the convention to be enforced. As of September 15, 2005, there were 127 signatories and 30 ratifications after Ecuador became the 30th ratifier at the 2005 World Summit.
China signed the document in December 2003.
The convention is consistent with China's anti-corruption strategy of putting equal emphasis on punishment and prevention of corruption, and does not contradict Chinese domestic laws in this regard, said Wu Dawei, vice minister of foreign affairs.
"Most important, it will provide a strong international legal basis for China to overcome the difficulties in investigation, extradition and the recovery of Chinese assets from other countries," Wu said.
China has been active in seeking international cooperation in fighting against corruption. Chinese prosecutors have captured a total of about 70 suspects from abroad through legal assistance channels with foreign countries since 1998.
The successful extradition from the United States of a local branch head of the Bank of China in Guangdong Province in 2004 was lauded as the most powerful deterrent for corrupt Chinese corrupt. The US used to be the safest place for corrupt officials to run to.
Yu Zhendong, the Bank of China official, misappropriated US$483 million before fleeing to the US.
Chinese police have also arrested more than 230 Chinese suspects from more than 30 countries during the period between 1993 and this January with the help of Interpol, the international police body.
Fan Xin, another lawmaker, told Xinhua that China should go on right now with the formulation or revision of its laws, including the criminal code, statutes on money laundering, and bribery in private sectors, to ensure that the Chinese legal system is able to adapt to the UN convention.
(Xinhua News Agency October 28, 2005)