The collusion of officials in the Communist Party of China (CPC) and government with big business is posing new challenges in China's fight against corruption, according to a CPC expert.
More than 100 provincial and ministerial-level Party and government officials had been investigated for corruption and related charges since the present CPC Central Committee was installed at the 16th CPC National Congress in 2002, said Shao Daosheng, a retired special researcher with the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection.
"The number of high-level officials being investigated and arrested in the past four years is higher than any other period in the Party's history," Shao said in an interview with Xinhua.
Last year alone, nine officials at the provincial and ministerial level were convicted and jailed for corruption, Chief Justice Xiao Yang said in his work report to the ongoing session of the national legislature.
Shao said the most striking feature of last year's corruption cases was Party and government officials colluding with business people to misappropriate billions of yuan.
Shao cited the Shanghai pension scandal, which led to the downfall of Chen Liangyu, former party chief of Shanghai, and Qiu Xiaohua, former head of the National Bureau of Statistics, as a typical case of abuse of power and illicit collaboration with business people.
"These interest groups have been found taking advantage of state-owned enterprise reform, urban resettlement projects and large-scale construction projects for their own gain," Shao said, adding that finance and the stock markets were also sources for such corruption.
However, "land corruption", often found in real estate industry and land approval projects, was the key to be addressed in the battle against corruption, said Shao.
"If land corruption was dealt with, the government would get twice the results with half the effort in the fight against corruption," he said.
In February, Minister of Construction Wang Guangtao, warned that the real estate industry had become a hotbed of power-for-money deals. "The industry has institutional loopholes in preventing and combating corruption, especially the collusion between government officials and businesses," he said.
"Land corruption" led to the fall of many high-profile officials from power last year, including Li Baojin, former chief procurator of Tianjin municipal procuratorate, He Minxu, vice governor of Anhui Province, and Liu Zhihua, vice mayor of Beijing Municipality.
Last year, 415 people in the construction sector were found to have committed criminal offences of breaching the ruling Communist Party's disciplinary code. About 68 percent were in administrative departments.
From January to July, 1,608 commercial corruption cases involved the construction sector, 26.3 percent of the country's total commercial corruption cases for that period.
Curbing corruption in real estate and land approval would also lead to more efficient land use, said Shao.
China had 1,95 billion mu (130 million hectares) of farmland in 1996, but by 2005, the area had dwindled by 121 million mu to 1.83 billion mu.
Another major concern was corruption affecting the lives of ordinary people, particularly concerning healthcare, education and housing costs.
In 2006, an increased number of officials in all government departments were blacklisted by the government in the campaign against corruption.
A report on China's procuratorial work in 2006 by Jia Chunwang, procurator-general of China's Supreme People's Procuratorate, says prosecutors investigated allegation of corruption, bribery and dereliction of duty against 40,041 government employees, of whom 29,966 were prosecuted.
The government attempted to break up alliances between officials and business people last year by reshuffling the discipline and inspection chiefs in 15 provinces and municipalities.
The central government would monitor and evaluate provincial discipline and inspection officials and help them tackle local problems, Shao said.
Shao also called for improved supervision within government departments to control the absolute power of government leaders, adding that a national anti-graft bureau should be set up to prevent corruption and punish corrupt officials.
(Xinhua News Agency March 15, 2007)