The Chinese COMMUNIST party (CCP) and goverment usually go to great lengths to cover up events or trends they think will challenge their rule. However, every now and then they surprise the world with their candor.
Take corruption: The party disclosed last week that 660,000 officials had been punished for corruption over the past five years. He Guoqiang (賀國強), head of the party’s Central Commission for Disciplinary Inspection, said: “Investigating corruption cases is a long-term task in the process of building a clean government.”
The most prominent of the recent cases of corruption has been that of Bo Xilai (薄熙來), the former provincial chief of the party in Chongqing, in southwestern China, who was dismissed for alleged abuse of power. However, the disciplinary commission chief pointed out that a railways minister and the mayor of Shenzen had also been fired.
His disclosure did not specify the forms of corruption involved, but anecdotal evidence suggests that bribery and embezzlement are commonplace. Local party officials have long been accused of underhanded seizures of land and property for personal gain.
To put things in perspective, the 660,000 punished bureaucrats comprise merely 3 percent of the 20 million Chinese government and party, national, provincial and local employees (as estimated by the UN). However, looking at it another way, the number of punished officials also equals about half of the entire population of the state of Hawaii.
He, who is a member of the politburo (China’s senior executive board), said earlier that a five-year anti-corruption campaign would be launched by the party congress scheduled to meet in Beijing next month.
“A sound system for punishing and curbing corruption is an important guarantee for the nation’s development,” He said.
In another anti-corruption plea, He recently visited major publications to encourage editorial staff to make greater contributions to public education against corruption. He told them that “anti-graft” education was fundamental to the CCP’s endeavors to build a clean government.
The Chinese corruption that perhaps most concerns US and other foreign investors is the theft of intellectual property such as patented processes. Especially worrisome is the failure of the Chinese government to enforce regulations intended to safeguard intellectual property.
The Economist Intelligence Unit said in a report: “Uncertainty over China’s protection of intellectual property and shifting Chinese priorities and policies can undermine deals with Chinese enterprises.”
Still another form of corruption, according to the Data Centre of China Internet, is Internet users in China getting slower download speeds than they paid for. Of China’s 1.3 billion people, 538 million have access to the Internet via smartphone or computer.
“Increasing numbers of Internet users in China shelling out for faster broadband are complaining that they’re not getting what they paid for,” reported Xinhua, the official news agency.
Along the same lines as the anti-corruption moves, the Chinese government last week issued a white paper on judicial reform. Among its provisions was a prohibition against obtaining confessions through torture; another intended to protect attorneys in defending suspects; and a third calling for prudent application of the death penalty.
A senior official, Jiang Wei (姜維), told the Chinese press: “The problems can only be solved by the Chinese way and wisdom. Copying foreign experience or systems might lead to a bad end.” This came in response to a question regarding whether China’s judicial system should follow Western models.
He said that China was keen to learn from the experience of other countries and would incorporate judicial concepts and practices utilized elsewhere. However, he concluded that the white paper urged a continuous effort to establish a “just, effective and authoritative socialist judicial system with Chinese characteristics.”
Richard Halloran is a commentator in Hawaii.