With the country's most corrupt official Chen Tonghai, former top leader of China Petroleum and Chemical Corporation, getting the death sentence with a two-year reprieve for receiving about 200 million yuan ($29 million) in bribes, the focus in the case has now shifted to the question of why any of the five offenders allegedly involved in bribery are still at large.
It is reported that the court held their illegal act, carried out on behalf of their organizations, as personal conduct. But they showed up in court as witnesses rather than as those implicated in bribery.
In this case involving the largest sum of money ever paid in bribes in the history of the People's Republic, it is strange that there is no mention of those who paid bribes. It should not have been difficult for the police to sort this out in a case where investigations went on for almost two years.
It is not clear whether the five who delivered bribes will be acquitted because they did this as representatives of their organizations. If that is the case, there is need for explanation. Will the firms or institutions involved in bribery be punished according to law?
With bribery becoming routine and eroding the economic environment, crackdown on the crime is as important. There should be no quarter given to either bribe-takers or bribe-givers. In reality, quite a number of bribe-givers do not receive the punishment they deserve.
That is one of the reasons why greasing one's way in business transactions and deals is rampant. To some extent, those who bribe their way through are encouraging, if not creating, bribe-takers.
Many officials have a guilty conscience the first time they take bribes. Once habituated, they would treat bribes as a sort of compensation for work done and feel entitled to a share of the booty. Many would even consider requests unaccompanied by bribes as an affront to their authority.
In the circumstances, there is no reason to exclude bribe-givers from punishment. To let them get away constitutes an encouragement. We don't believe that the court should let bribe-givers, either as individuals or as representatives of an organization, get away with their crime.
This mysterious aspect of the case involving bribe-givers has baffled the public. The story would be inconclusive until all those involved get the punishment they deserve.
(China Daily July 17, 2009)