Once, Party or government officials could retain their positions unless they broke the law. A new regulation taking effect in Sichuan Province, however, no longer shows that tolerance.
The regulation published last week lists nine situations in which officials with government departments or with the Communist Party of China should resign from their posts. These include failing to pass annual evaluations on their work performance, and making mistakes that result in serious political or economic consequences.
If an official commits one of the nine violations, he or she should leave automatically, or be forced to step down.
The regulation has attracted widespread attention as the first in the country to explicitly detail under what circumstances officials should resign.
Although the central leadership had issued regulations that demand officials who commit serious mistakes at work resign, they are too abstract to be implemented. It thus remains a requirement in principle, not in practice.
Even though some officials are removed from posts due to serious fraud, their mistakes are seldom mentioned in public to save face.
So the new regulation in Sichuan imposes higher requirements on Party and government officials. The intensified supervision also enhances officials' sense of responsibility and compels them to perform their duties better.
But despite its significance, the new rule has great room for improvement.
It leaves a conspicuous blank by stopping short of specifying whether the expelled officials can be re-selected and promoted back into official ranks.
A clear ruling on this issue is believed to be critical to the efficient implementation of the new approach.
In its absence, it is likely that officials will maneuver to be transferred to a new or even higher position after acknowledging their mistakes and resigning.
There is no shortage of such cases in reality.
With such a way out, the ability of the regulations to make officials fully accountable for their performance will be greatly undermined.
(China Daily November 26, 2003)