Anti-Corruption Campaign Remains Hot Topic

Encouraged by the progress made in China's battle against corruption, people across the country and their representatives at the top legislature, the National People's Congress (NPC), are still eager for more achievements.

Another high-ranking official? An executive of a State company? Or a village head? This is a much asked question about who will be the next target of China's mounting anti-corruption campaign after a series of corruption scandals have been exposed and criminals punished.

"We are still investigating some big cases," said Cao Qingze, deputy secretary of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection of the Communist Party of China, but he was tight-lipped about details at the ongoing NPC session.

"We must draw a lesson from these scandals and take a serious attitude towards the issue, and build a clean government through self-discipline," said Fujian Governor Xi Jinping, a deputy to the NPC.

Anti-corruption efforts were intensified last year and remain a hot topic at the current NPC annual session. Last year China sentenced former Jiangxi Deputy Governor Hu Changqing and NPC Standing Committee Vice-Chairman Cheng Kejie to death. Cheng was the highest-ranking official executed since 1949.

Prosecutors also investigated the Xiamen smuggling case in Fujian Province, said to be the most notorious smuggling scandal in Chinese history. Major culprits including several senior officials were executed.

The anti-corruption campaign has also revealed that some corrupt Communist Party officials have connections with a criminal gang in the northern city of Shenyang.

According to Han Zhubin, the head of the Supreme People's Procuratorate who delivered a work report at the NPC session on Saturday, 45,000 corrupt cases were investigated last year and seven corrupt officials at the ministerial or provincial level were punished, in addition to thousands of lower-ranking officials.

"We have been all shocked by the news of corruption," said an NPC deputy from the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. "It is pretty clear that corruption is endangering the position of the Communist Party."

Some experts say that corruption is commonplace when a country is transforming its economy from an old model to a new one, a course China is experiencing.

Premier Zhu Rongji admitted in his report to the NPC session last Monday that "graft and corruption are still serious" and called for a "further struggle." Party discipline departments have already launched a new campaign this year to pursue their next targets.

Many deputies think that the fact that an increasing number of scandals have been exposed and those responsible punished is evidence the anti-corruption campaign has produced noticeable results. They say it does not indicate that corruption is becoming even more rampant.

"Most of the evil goings-on emerged several years ago and were only discovered recently. We are grateful that the Party has begun to kill 'big tigers,' and be more resolute in fighting corruption," said one deputy.

Most deputies said the ongoing battle would greatly frighten officials who dare to violate the rules. "I think many of them are considering stopping their crimes," said Zhou Jiachun, from Shanghai.

The number of corrupt cases has decreased in the finance, construction and government purchasing sectors, according to Li Xueqin, an official with the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection of the Chinese Communist Party. He predicted that corruption would be even more significantly curbed within the next five years. What is more significant is that last year's investigations and punishments of corruption have triggered further reform within government departments.

Liu Xiaofeng, director of the Transportation Bureau of Sichuan Province and a deputy to the NPC, said the bureau has abolished its old methods of selecting cadres after the bureau's former director was sentenced to death last year for taking bribes by manipulating the highway construction bid.

Sun Yongfu, vice-minister of railways, said anti-corruption is a critical issue in building the planned Qinghai-Tibet railway over the next five years. "We have decided to invite public bidding through newspapers and the Internet to ensure fair competition," he said.

Gan Yuping, an NPC deputy and vice-mayor of Chongqing, in charge of the farmers' relocation in the Three Gorges Dam project said the city created a transparent system to enable the work to be supervised by the public after officials were punished for embezzling migration funds last year.

As a matter of fact, most deputies do not agree the death penalty is the best solution. "The anti-corruption campaign has entered a new stage, that is, while punishing corrupt officials, we are making more efforts to eliminate the root of corruption," Cao Qingze said.

"I appreciate the concept of 'governing the country through moral approach'," said Ding Jiemin, the mayor of Taizhou in the economically-prosperous Jiangsu Province. "It is a better remedy to eliminate social cancer."

The concept was put forward by President Jiang Zemin early this year and is in keeping with the principle of "governing the country according to law."

Shi Liwen, an NPC deputy and president of China's number one construction conglomerate, based in Shanghai, said he felt proud that few corruption scandals have been reported in the city.

He said that the law awareness of Shanghai residents and the city's improved supervision system have contributed to this.

"In the city, from officials to citizens, people have become more accustomed to doing things according to the law," he said.

Reports say that Shanghai is ready to create a modern system under which the government's function is to provide services to companies and citizens, and bureaucratism and authoritarianism, the hot bed of corruption, will be buried.

(Xinhua 03/13/2001)