Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶) is demanding much tougher anti-corruption efforts amid a huge political scandal over a now-suspended Politburo member whose wife has been named a suspect in the murder of a British businessman.
Wen’s message, published yesterday, differed little from previous calls to fight endemic corruption, but it comes amid a nationwide drive to support the Chinese Communist Party’s decision to oust Bo Xilai (薄熙來) from key positions and launch an investigation into what are described as serious breaches in discipline.
Media reports have raised questions about whether he tried to abuse his power to quash the investigation into his wife, Gu Kailai (谷開來). Gu and a household employee are being investigated over the suspected murder of the Briton Neil Heywood.
Wen wrote in an essay published in the party’s main theoretical journal, Qiushi, that despite a series of measures enacted to curb corruption, greater determination and more effective anti-corruption tools are still needed.
Greater transparency and a reduction in the concentration of powers among some government departments is also needed to allow effective citizen supervision, Wen said.
“We need to deeply acknowledge that the greatest threat to the ruling party is corruption,” Wen wrote.
Wen did not mention Bo by name or refer to the case directly. However, Wen has been the only top official to speak publicly about the matter, saying at his annual news conference last month that Chongqing officials need to understand its seriousness and put their house in order.
Also yesterday, party newspaper Guangming Daily published the latest in a series of state media editorials calling on readers to support action against Bo and his wife and not to believe speculation that the politician’s sidelining is linked to infighting among top leaders.
“Handling the serious breach of discipline is a measure embraced by the whole of the party and so-called ‘inner-party conflict’ has nothing to do with it,” the editorial said.
Bo was once considered a leading candidate for the party’s all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee when seven new members are expected to be picked at a party congress in the fall, in the first step in a generational handover of power to younger leaders.
Bo is the first politburo member to be removed from office in five years and the scandal kicked up rumors of a political struggle involving Bo supporters intent on derailing succession plans calling Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping (習近平) to lead the party for the next decade. Such allegations are fed by the same secrecy, political privilege and lack of outside supervision that are blamed for making high-level corruption such a major problem.
Efforts to require leading officials to declare their assets have found little traction while rules prohibiting officials and their family members from using political connections for personal gain are routinely flouted.