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New Rule Puts Officials Under Public Scrutiny
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China's civil servants are on notice to be on their best behavior -- at home and at work -- or face the sack under a new regulation coming into effect on Friday.

Officials' private lives and public performance will be closely scrutinized under the country's first regulation to systematically stipulate administrative punishments for disreputable conduct.

The sack is the ultimate sanction for offences such as using their influence to benefit a lover or becoming involved in other forms of corrupt behavior.

The 55-article regulation issued by the State Council in April stipulates that officials who engage in corruption, organize "superstitious" gatherings, use drugs, engage in the sex trade or fail to fulfill their duties can be demoted or fired.

It also allows for the firing of officials who abuse or abandon family members or refuse to support elderly relations.

The regulation is seen as part of the central government drive to ensure civil servants perform their duties according to the law and to weed out corruption.

From Friday, an official whose failure to perform his or her duties results in an accident, disaster, environmental pollution or "mass protest", can be reprimanded, demoted or sacked according to the severity of the incident.

The punishment is also applied to officials who fail to report or deal with major accidents, disasters and criminal cases in a timely manner.

Officials can also be fired if their lax management causes public funds for disaster relief, poverty relief, resettlement, social security and land appropriation compensation to be embezzled, diminished or lost.

Officials found guilty of fraud and misleading their superiors and the public also face punishment, says the regulation.

Those who repress criticism, retaliate against whistleblowers or destroy their documents or disclose details of informants' letters to the targeted officials will be reprimanded, demoted or fired.

Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Commission of Discipline Inspection statistics show 97,260 of the CPC's 70 million members were punished for corruption last year, including 3,530 -- seven of whom were at or above the level of minister or governor -- who were prosecuted.

(Xinhua News Agency June 1, 2007)

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