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Severe punishment for bribery
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In August 2007, Hu Xing, former deputy director of the Yunnan Provincial Transport Department, was sentenced to life imprisonment for abusing his city construction planning authority regarding real estate development and expressway project approvals; he was found to have accepted more than 40 million yuan (US$5.55 million) in bribes. One of the bribers, Chen Zuyuan, who had bribed Hu with 32 million yuan (US$4.44 million), the largest sum for any individual involved in the case, obtained bail pending trial. Chen is the board chairman of the Anyuan Investment Corporation in Shenzhen.

Light or even no punishment for people who provide bribes has aroused attention from law experts and the public as more and more bribery scandals have been disclosed.

According to the revised Criminal Law adopted in 1997, an act shall be prosecuted if the value of the bribe by an individual is equal to or over 10,000 yuan and the value of the bribe by an organization is equal to or exceeds 200,000 yuan. But during actual implementation, those who offer bribes are sometimes granted undue leniency compared with those who receive bribes, the Legal Daily reported on January 27.

Some law experts assert that the criminal code defines the crime of bribery as "efforts to obtain an unjust gain." But in reality, it is difficult to ascertain the boundary between "just" and "unjust." Additionally, during investigations it is often necessary to expose criminal activity via the bribers, and as such, the disciplinary and procedural inspection agencies will often agree to exchange full disclosure for a lesser punishment or to waive the punishment altogether. Nowadays, more and more organizations are involved in bribery cases. It is hard to confirm which subject should be prosecuted. Light punishment with huge benefits entices people to violate laws.

Experts also suggest that Chinese courts should hand down severe sentences to "major" bribers whose activities resulted in "serious social harm".

( by Wu Nanlan, January 28, 2008)

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