News / Asia

For China, Corruption Fight is 'Life or Death' Struggle

New Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping waves in Beijing's Great Hall of the People Nov. 15, 2012.New Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping waves in Beijing's Great Hall of the People Nov. 15, 2012.
x
New Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping waves in Beijing's Great Hall of the People Nov. 15, 2012.
New Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping waves in Beijing's Great Hall of the People Nov. 15, 2012.
William Ide
China’s fight against the rampant problem of corruption has long lacked a tool that many believe could help shine a light on graft: a requirement from the central government that officials publicly disclose their assets.

In the past, authorities tried such policies at the local level, but there has not been a top-down approach to give the public more information about officials’ assets.
That, however, could be changing.

China's Communist Party has publicly acknowledged its fight against corruption is a life or death struggle, and in the coming weeks several new - albeit small scale - asset disclosure programs are expected to be initiated, one in the eastern city of Ningbo and three others in the progressive southern province of Guangdong.

Transparency

Details of the programs are still coming together, but state media report that the program in Ningbo will only be applied to newly appointed government officials.
The program in Guangdong will require major party and government officials to report their assets, investments and employment details of their spouses and children.

He Bing, assistant dean of the law school of the China University of Political Science and Law, says there are signs that the new measures could succeed where past experiments failed. He says the public demand for disclosure is stronger and China’s change in leadership is helping to intensify the anti-corruption push.

“Given all these factors, I think that these new policies like the one that is going into place in Guangdong are different from the past,” He Ping says.

“The ones we have seen before were just tests, but these new pilot programs are more like a signal that something is about to begin. And slowly these experiments will expand.”

Not everyone is optimistic. Some of the programs that already have been experimented with in the past, such as one in Xinjiang and the provinces of Hunan and Zhejiang, have had mixed results, says Allen Clayton-Greene, a senior analyst with China Policy.

The program in Xinjiang lasted for less than a year and ended when the anti-corruption official there passed away, Clayton-Greene says. But the program in Zhejiang’s Cixi has been going on since 2009.

“That [program] required people to disclose their personal income, private cars and houses as well as those owned by their children and family members,” he says. “But one of the issues with the Cixi pilot program is that there were zero complaints received from the public and there was sort of fury about the fact there was actually no way in which the public could file complaints, in respect to officials' assets.”

Photo Gallery: Bo Xilai scandal

  • In this photo released by the Jinan Intermediate People's Court, Bo Xilai is handcuffed and held by police officers as he stands at the court in Jinan, in eastern China's Shandong province, Sept. 22, 2013.
  • A minivan believed to be carrying Bo Xilai arrives at the Jinan Intermediate People's Court ahead of the fifth day of Bo's trial, August 26, 2013. 
  • In this image taken from video, Bo Xilai addresses a court at Jinan Intermediate People's Court in eastern China's Shandong province, Aug. 24, 2013.
  • A woman protests outside the Jinan Intermediate People's Court, eastern China's Shandong province, August 21, 2013.
  • Gu Kailai, wife of Bo Xilai, is seen in a still image taken from an August 10, 2013 video provided by the Jinan Intermediate People's Court.
  • Policemen are seen at a court building where the trial for Bo Xilai was held in Jinan, Shandong province.
  • Former police chief Wang Lijun speaks during a court hearing in Chengdu, China, in this still image taken from CCTV video, Sept. 18, 2012.
  • This video image taken from CCTV shows Gu Kailai, wife of Bo Xilai, being taken into the Intermediate People's Court in the eastern Chinese city Hefei, August 9, 2012.
  • Police officers stand guard at the Hefei City Intermediate People's Court for the murder trial of Gu Kailai, Anhui Province, China, August 9, 2012.
  • A  combonation photo showing Neil Heywood and Gu Kailai.
  • Bo Xilai, walks past Communist Party leaders at the National People's Congress in Beijing, March 9, 2012.
  • Bo Xilai, right and his son, Bo Guagua, 2007.

High-ranking officials

Analysts say that just how high up the experiments in Ningbo and Guandong will reach remains to be seen.

Ren Jianming, director of the anti-corruption and governance research center at Beijing’s Tsinghua University, says that whatever the final product, the asset disclosure should include prominent officials as well as their family members.

“It is not necessary that all officials be required to disclose their assets, but at least the high-ranking officials including municipal level ones, departments and bureau heads should release details of their assets to the public,” Ren says.

“Other lower-ranking officials do not need to make the assets public, instead they only need to release their information internally so it can be monitored.”

Since 1995, officials in China have been required to report their salaries to the party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection. Just a few years ago, that was expanded to include the assets of their family members’ personal income, investments and property holdings.
 
That information, however, has never been made public, in part because of government concerns about how the release of such information could create social instability.
Information about officials' personal wealth has long been a sensitive topic in China. The Internet sites of both the New York Times and Bloomberg have been blocked since last year after both published stories about the family assets of outgoing premier Wen Jiabao and incoming president Xi Jinping.

Crackdown

Since becoming party chairman last November, Xi and the head of the party’s disciplinary commission, Wang Qishan, have been taking steps to crack down on corruption. Xi has pledged to go after both high- and low-ranking officials, and the party says it will launch a major anti-corruption plan this year.

He Bing says what China needs is a breakthrough, and that the country’s leader in waiting, Xi Jinping, knows the crisis his ruling party is facing.

“Xi is like any other leader, like President Obama, once he assumes power he needs to take action. As new leaders they introduce severe new measures and changes and take a more aggressive approach.”

What kind of role asset disclosure could play in that plan is unclear. The party’s disciplinary commission says it will carry out spot checks on senior leaders' disclosed assets, albeit internally.

Amnesty

Some anti-corruption scholars in China say the government should set up an amnesty program to prod corrupt officials to come forward, and give them some guarantees that possible penalties could be lightened.

Tsinghua University’s Ren Jianming says amnesty would need a legal basis and should be different from political movements the party has launched in the past to root out corruption.

“In the past, similar policies by the Chinese government have resulted in unfavorable outcomes,” Ren says. “Those who did not come forward and reveal their acts of corruption managed to escape punishment, and those who did come forward willingly were punished. In the end, the result was just the opposite of what was intended.”

Unlike past campaigns that the party has carried out to crack down on the problem of corruption, analysts say if amnesty is used again, it needs to have a legal basis. Some analysts in China say the amnesty could apply to acts of corruption prior to last November’s 18th Party Congress.

You May Like

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said To Be Improving

Experimental drugs have been tried on six people: three Westerners and now, three African pyhysicians More

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities residents rebuild their lives, but many say everyone is being treated with suspicion More

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

Girls learn to object; FGM practitioners face penalties from jail sentences to stiff fines More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improvingi
X
Carol Pearson
August 19, 2014 11:43 PM
The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.
Video

Video For Obama, Racial Violence is Personal Issue

The racial violence in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson is presenting U.S. President Barack Obama with an issue to which he has a deep personal connection. To many Americans, Obama's election as America's first black president marked a turning point in race relations in the United States, and Obama has made ending the violence a policy priority. On Monday he issued a new call for calm and understanding. Luis Ramirez reports from the White House.
Video

Video Clinton-Obama Relationship Could Impact 2016 Election

President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have a long and complicated relationship. That relationship took another turn recently when Clinton criticized the president’s foreign policy. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports there is renewed attention on the Clinton-Obama relationship as Hillary Clinton considers running for
Video

Video Iran Looks to Maintain Influence in Baghdad With New Shia PM

Washington and Tehran share the goal of stopping Syrian-based militants in Iraq. But experts say it's Iran, not the United States, that will most influence how the new government in Baghdad approaches internal reforms and the war in Syria. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

AppleAndroid