Wed, Feb 14, 2007 - Page 4 News List

Graft in China remains big problem

ENDEMIC Last year, almost 100,000 members of the Communist Party were punished for corruption, but solving the problem soon is `almost impossible'

AFP , BEIJING

Nearly 100,000 members of the Chinese Communist Party were punished last year for corruption, but eradicating graft in the near future remains a huge challenge, a senior official said yesterday.

"Solving the problem of corruption in a short time is almost impossible," Gan Yisheng (干以勝), a senior party discipline and oversight official, told a press conference here.

Of the 97,260 officials who had been disciplined, more than 80 percent had failed to carry out duties, taken bribes or violated the party's financial rules, said Gan, vice secretary of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection.

The punishments extended to prosecution for 3,530 cadres, seven of whom were at or above the level of Cabinet minister or governor of a province.

Gan made little mention of an ongoing corruption case in Shanghai, although it is China's largest graft probe in more than a decade and involves more than 20 senior businessmen and officials, including the city party boss Chen Liangyu (陳良宇).

Chen, a member of China's elite Politburo, was sacked in September for his alleged involvement in the misuse of about US$400 million of the city's retirement funds for speculative real estate projects.

The investigation, which first began to surface in July last year, is being carried out "smoothly" and the results will be publicized at an "appropriate time," Gan said.

The disciplinary official also insisted that corrupt cadres made up a minuscule percentage -- only 0.14 percent of China's nearly 70 million party members.

"The ratio is very low, and it means most of the party cadres are good," he said.

The Chinese government has waged an ongoing battle against corruption, a problem so widespread among its members that President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) has warned it is a threat to the ruling party's legitimacy.

In a separate case involving Chinese fugitive Lai Changxing (賴昌星), the alleged boss of a multi-billion-dollar smuggling ring, Gan rejected that he would be sentenced to death or encounter abuse were he to be repatriated from Canada.

Lai has been fighting to stay in Canada since fleeing China in 1999 and claiming refugee status in 2000. He has argued that he would face persecution and certain death if sent home.

Chinese authorities allege that the former laborer was the mastermind behind a US$10 billion smuggling ring that dealt in luxury goods imported through Fujian Province and bribed government officials.

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