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Senior Chinese Officials Arrested on Corruption Charges - 2002-03-02

Senior Chinese officials now confirm reports that a top government advisory body has expelled four members for alleged corruption on the eve of a key annual meeting.

A spokesman for the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference has said the four members were expelled for "economic wrongdoing or misconduct."

Qi Huaiyuan would give no details of the alleged wrongdoing.

The expulsions come right before Sunday's gathering of the large and diverse group that is supposed to advise lawmakers on issues before their annual meeting next week.

One of the key problems facing Chinese lawmakers is pervasive corruption within the ruling Communist Party. Thousands of party officials have been convicted of graft in a major government crackdown.

But Mr. Qi said his advisory group has a much broader agenda. It includes ways to help China's hundreds of millions of impoverished farmers who expect to face stiff international competition now that China is a member of the World Trade Organization.

The advisory body will also talk about reforming the many taxes and fees that have sparked a series of occasionally violent protests in rural areas.

In addition, the panel will consider an amendment to China's socialist constitution that would provide stronger protection for private property in the growing market economy.

But some analysts say the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference is little more than a debating society because its opinions are given to China's version of a legislature, which has no real power.

That legislature, called the National People's Congress, starts its annual meeting Tuesday, when it is expected to give rubber stamp approval to proposals long since worked out by China's real rulers, the few dozen top members of the Communist Party.