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Sunshine legislation against corruption in China

Jul 13, 2010

Amidst widening public anger against corruption in officialdom in China, its ruling communist party has decided to make anti-corruption laws more stringent. Through the new legislation, President Hu Jintao expects to reinforce the eroding legitimacy of the party and strengthen its control.

Beijing: China's ruling Communist Party has announced a tightening of anti-corruption laws to curb corruption in officialdom, which many analysts say has begun to seriously erode the party's legitimacy.

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New rules issued by the Party's powerful discipline and inspection commission will now force officials to annually report a wide range of their family's assets and investments to government authorities, as well as increase penalties for financial irregularities.

The moves are the latest indication of the battle the Party has been waging, with only very limited success according to most analysts, to stem the corruption rot, which President Hu Jintao has described as among the biggest threats to the government's legitimacy.

n September, the Party's Central Committee, its highest decision-making body, in a rare admission acknowledged that corruption was “severely harming and weakening” its control.

Official corruption has spread unchecked in the three decades since the economic reforms and opening up, with increasing inflows of external investments and often opaque boundaries between the state and commercial enterprises.

The new rules have increased the kinds of financial assets that officials will have to report from eight to 14.

The items include income from non-official sources, investments in companies and employment details of children living overseas.

Officials will also have to report their spouse's incomes and assets, given an increasingly common trend of officials hiding their assets under their spouse's names.

Hu's administration recently launched a much-publicised campaign against corruption, which began in the municipality of Chongqing where more than 1,500 public servants, including senior judges and police officials, were arrested. Wen Qiang, the former head of the judicial bureau in what is China's biggest municipality, was executed last week.

In the past 10 months, more than 5,800 officials have been charged with corruption related to kick-backs taken under construction projects, according to a recent report in China's official media.

Some analysts say the corruption drive is as much about politics as cleaning the internal rot, tied to increased behind-the-scenes politicking as rival factions in the Party jostle for power in the lead-up to the Eighteenth Party Congress in 2012, when the next generation of leaders takes over.

The rules have fallen short of the expectations of some scholars, who have been calling for Chinese officials to publicise their assets. Zhu Lijia, an expert on corruption laws at the Chinese Academy of Governance, said the rules could have done more to make information about officials' assets public to introduce greater external scrutiny.

As officials now only have to report their assets to higher-ups within the Party, the checks and balances were still “within the system,” he said.

“Sunshine is the best way to fight corruption. It's a pity the new rule does not require publicising officials' assets,” he told the official China Daily newspaper.

Lin Zhe, a professor at the Central Committee's Party School, told the same newspaper that resistance from officials, in spite of growing public anger against corruption, was an obstacle to greater transparency. “Therefore, the new regulation is a compromise,” she said. “Its actual effect remains limited.”

Source : The Hindu
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