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Top Officials Vow to Fight Against Corruption
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Key central departments yesterday pledged to crack down on bribe-taking by government officials. Joint action was promised by 22 cabinet-level departments at a meeting convened by the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) of the Communist Party of China.


The pledge was a response to recent calls by the nation's top leaders, including President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao, to stop officials abusing their power for gain.


From the second quarter of the year all government agencies will step up efforts to "ferret out" and investigate bribe-takers, said He Yong, deputy secretary of CCDI, indicating that the campaign would last at least six months.


Individuals found to be involved in serious offences would be severely punished, he told the meeting which was being attended by members of anti-bribery task forces from government ministries as well as officials of the National People's Congress.


The CCDI official urged all government agencies to come forward with detailed anti-bribery campaigns before March 10, adding that by March 20 all provincial governments were expected to report to the central government on their own programs.


Vice-Minister of Health She Jing said that the anti-corruption drive in the healthcare system would focus on the purchase and sale of medicines.


Vice-Minister of Land and Resources Li Yuan said his ministry would concentrate on corruption in land use and the transactions involved, in mineral resource exploration and in the survey and evaluation of land and resources.


Commercial enterprises and businesses gaining an unfair advantage or favors through bribery widely existed in almost every trade in China, especially among pharmaceutical companies and property developers.


A recent central government document said commercial bribery was widespread in six areas: construction, land use, property transactions, distribution of medicine, government procurement and development of land resources.


Earlier this year, a national anti-bribery group was set up, headed by CCDI and comprising the Legislative Affairs Commission of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), the Supreme People's Court and the Supreme People's Procurator.


Last week, Premier Wen called on government agencies at all levels to make stamping out corruption a priority this year.


Commercial bribery caused great economic losses to the country. Statistics from the Ministry of Commerce reveal that in the medicine trade alone as much as 772 million yuan (US$95 million) could be involved in kickbacks in a year, accounting for almost 16 percent of the industry's revenue.


However, many cases of commercial bribery in industry have been exposed recently.


In central China's Hunan Province, Wang Daosheng, former deputy secretary-general of the provincial government, was arrested for assisting a private company buy a local state-owned medicine manufacturer for a low price.


The ever tough business environment has also led to some foreign companies becoming involved in bribery.  


A Tianjin-based subsidiary of Diagnostic Products Co Ltd was recently fined US$4.8 million by the US Department of Justice for bribing doctors in China's state-owned hospitals to buy its medical equipment and services last year.


Jing Yunchuan, a lawyer at Beijing-based Gaotong Law Service, said the anti-bribery campaign will change the way many companies and individuals do business.


It is recognized that bribery is an offence currently applicable only to civil servants but sometimes it is family members or friends taking the bribes, Jing said. "So I suggest that the law be revised to rectify that situation," Jing said.


(China Daily March 3, 2006)


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