Cross-border bribery

0 CommentsPrint E-mail China Daily, May 5, 2011
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By criminalizing bribing foreign officials, the eighth amendment to the country's Criminal Law provided a long overdue boost to our, and to a large extent the world's, fight against corruption.

The amendment is overdue because China has been an official signatory of the United Nations Convention against Corruption since the National People's Congress ratified it in 2005 - the government actually signed it in 2003, the year the document was drafted.

But, as we have said time and time again, better late than never, especially when it comes to precautions against corruption.

The amendment, which came into effect on Sunday, won international acclaim, in part because it fulfills an international obligation, which had been there for years lacking tangible support from domestic legislation.

The revision of Article 164, which singles out bribing public officials of foreign countries or officials with international organizations and prescribes the same penalties for similar offenses at home, has the effect of broadening the country's crusade against corruption beyond its borders. The problem has become an increasing concern as more domestic firms seek overseas expansion.

The amendment will no doubt be conducive to refining business conduct and hence to the country's ambitious "going out" initiative.

Yet the amendment could, and we strongly believe should, have been better than it is, as it fails to criminalize the flip side of such bribery cases.

While the public may be less aware of bribery of foreign officials by Chinese people, we have heard plenty about Chinese officials taking bribes from overseas businesses, varying from commission fees and all-expenses-covered overseas trips to deals much more difficult to detect.

Strangest of all, even when the US Department of Justice provided the names of US firms who offered bribes and Chinese firms who allegedly received them, nobody has been disciplined on our end. We always have difficulty understanding bribery cases without bribe takers.

Therefore enforcement of the law, which has been an issue of concern to many in the country, should be carried out in earnest. This should also apply when cooperating with overseas judicial organizations.

Until recently, the Chinese legislative and judicial practice focused on bribe takers. To root out the cause of corruption bribe giving should also be targeted, and not only during campaigns against corruption. Those found guilty should be penalized to the full extent of the law.

The amendment aims at fair play and business ethics while punishing betrayal of national interests. By plugging loopholes in legislation, the country is also demonstrating its determination to fight against corruption.

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