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China Widens Definition of Bribery to Combat Graft


China's highest court and top prosecutor have issued a legal interpretation to combat official graft by widening the definition of bribery and granting leniency to officials who return ill-gotten gains. As Daniel Schearf reports from Beijing, China has been struggling to stamp out widespread corruption, which threatens the Communist Party's legitimacy.

According to the joint legal interpretation, officials can now face prosecution for corruption even if they do not directly receive a bribe themselves or if they receive bribes after they retire.

The rules say an official can now be charged with corruption if cash, gifts or favors are given to family members or an affiliate with the aim of gaining the official's influence.

The new rules also make it illegal to help arrange bribes.

David Zweig is an expert on China at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. He says the rules will make it easier for prosecutors to take on corrupt officials when there are no records of direct financial transfers.

"My sense is what they are trying to say is 'we are going to catch you.' We are going to catch you when you retire," said Zweig. "Do not think you can grab the money now or cut the deal now, help somebody and you will get away with it later. We are going to catch you.'"

The official Xinhua news agency reported the rules target "new forms of corruption" to try to "catch up with the tricks of wily, corrupt officials."

The new ways of bribing officials include offering shares in companies, large discounts on houses and cars, and gambling.

The rules say officials who return bribes before they or related people are investigated will not face corruption charges, but did not indicate whether or not they could face other disciplinary measures.

The government has struggled for decades to fight widespread corruption, which Chinese leaders have said could undermine Communist Party rule.

China has in recent years convicted dozens of high-level officials, including the recent death sentence of the former head of China's food and drug administration.

The China Daily newspaper said the new legal interpretation backs up a May regulation issued by the Communist Party's discipline organ, which offered leniency to corrupt officials who confess their crimes.

The newspaper quoted the deputy secretary in charge of party discipline as saying, despite the offer, only a small number of officials have confessed. The paper said the official warned that China needs a better legal system to fight corruption.

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