A tougher and more systematic crackdown on corruption was promised by Chinese President Hu Jintao in a keynote speech delivered at a Party conference on Tuesday.
Hu, who is also General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), made the call at the Seventh Plenary Session of the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI). This is a three-day meeting that started Monday.
Acknowledging the progress the commission had made in the past year, Hu said the Party still faced an "arduous fight against corruption."
Hu told senior Party officials and the 110 CCDI members attending the session that they should continue to work on investigating "major and high-level corruption cases" and sternly punish crooked officials.
China's anti-graft fight last year led to the downfall of several senior officials including Shanghai ex-Party chief Chen Liangyu, former Beijing Vice Mayor Liu Zhihua and former top statistician Qiu Xiaohua.
Chen was China's highest ranking official to fall in a corruption scandal in a decade. The latest high-level official to be investigated for graft is Zheng Xiaoyu, former head of China's drug administration. He was said to be implicated in a string of bribery cases before he left the post in June 2005.
Hu called on government officials and Party leaders at all levels to establish a comprehensive system to expose and punish corrupt officials and to make anti-graft efforts an integral part of the country's economic, political and cultural development.
In his speech, the president ordered local officials to "solemnly carry out the central government's policy and ensure its absolute authority." Hu acknowledged that some of the leadership's strictures were ignored by headstrong local officials.
Hu repeated his call to Party leaders to "improve their work style" which is a Chinese expression meaning that cadres should be upright, modest and prudent, hard-working, frugal and care more about the people they are responsible for than themselves.
"We must realize how essential it is to improve cadres' work style. This is a key challenge for the Communist Party," Hu said.
He said the CPC must make stringent efforts to improve the education, supervision and self-discipline of leading cadres. Ethics was a top priority in this.
Before the CCDI's three-day meeting the commission reported its progress on dealing with commercial bribery. This usually refers to bribes offered by companies to government officials in exchange for special favors.
A total of 3,128 cases directly involving government employees and a sum of money totaling 968 million yuan (US$121 million) were uncovered in the period August 2005 to June 2006, the commission said.
In order to prevent corruption from staining China's preparations for the 2008 Olympics, Li Jinhua, the head of the National Audit Office, said Monday that Olympic spending will be a key target for his department's work in 2007.
Former deputy mayor of Beijing, Liu Zhihua, who was in charge of the Olympic construction projects, was fired last year for alleged corruption.
Li said his staff will audit major investment projects and seriously investigate any bribery cases.
(Xinhua News Agency January 10, 2007)