Coming Together Against Corruption
Tracking down fugitives overseas has become a focus of China's anti-graft campaign
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Cover Stories Series 2014> War on Corruption Goes International> Archive
UPDATED: June 23, 2014 NO. 26 JUNE 26, 2014
Time to Get Dressed
The crackdown on officials with family members living abroad has begun
By Yin Pumin


On June 6, after two months of investigation, the Guangdong Provincial Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) announced that it had found more than 1,000 "naked officials" in the southern Chinese province.

Naked officials refer to those whose spouses and children have moved overseas.

During the overhaul, some 200 such officials had asked their families to return, while 866 agreed to accept demotion, including nine at the mayoral level, according to a statement issued by the Organization Department of the CPC Guangdong Provincial Committee.

The department did not release the names of those involved, but said that the problem was the worst in Dongguan, a city near Hong Kong where 127 officials were demoted, including 19 at the county level.

In Jiangmen, a city famous for being the hometown of many overseas Chinese, 128 officials have been demoted, including 13 at the county level.

Liu Xutao, Deputy Director of the Public Administration of the Beijing-based Chinese Academy of Governance, said that the current measures have been effective as a warning to other officials.

"Guangdong's move shows the government's resolve in removing naked officials from public service," he said.

Setting an example

Guangdong launched a slew of investigations into naked officials back in February, when a statement issued by a disciplinary inspection team sent by central authorities said that the problem in this aspect was "jaw dropping" in the province.

Demotions were given to many such officials based on a previous provincial regulation that ruled naked officials would be barred from top positions in Party and government departments.

In one recent high-profile case, Fang Xuan, former deputy Party chief of Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong, was asked to leave his post in May.

Fang was born in 1954 and will not reach the official retirement age for officials of his rank, which is 60 years old, until October. He took the post in November 2011, and it is alleged that taking early retirement was suggested after authorities found him to be a naked official, according to the official microblog of People's Daily, a leading Chinese newspaper.

Xin Ming, a professor at the Party School of the CPC Central Committee, said that Fang's early retirement shows the local government's determination to solve the problem.

In February, the Organization Department of the CPC Central Committee issued an internal document, stating that naked officials should either bring their families back home or retire ahead of time.

Since then, many Party and government officials in cities in the Pearl River Delta, one of the world's major manufacturing centers in Guangdong, have asked their spouses to return to the mainland and reapply for their household registrations, according to a report by the Hong Kong-based newspaper Mingpao.

The reshuffle move in Guangdong affected officials in the Pearl River Delta region more as they tend to have more connections with Hong Kong and Macao, said the report.

According to Han Zhipeng, a member of the Guangzhou Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, the local advisory body, the number of naked officials in the Pearl River Delta is believed to have exceeded that in other parts of the country because of its rapid economic development.

With the region's thriving international trade, it is easier for local officials to connect with other countries, said Yang Danna, a public administration professor at the Party School of the CPC Guangdong Provincial Committee. "The number of naked officials has skyrocketed over the past decade. It used to be only thousands but now it is over 1 million," he noted.

Xiao Bin, a professor at the School of Government at Guangzhou-based Sun Yat-sen University, said that naked officials are considered particularly high-risk when it comes to corruption.

"Naked officials are not necessarily corrupt, but they are just one step away," Xiao said. For example, police found that many of them had transferred large amounts of assets overseas and sent their family members abroad to escape punishment.

There is also a public impression that many such officials are likely to be corrupt, due to media coverage on corruption in recent years.

Statistics from the Supreme People's Procuratorate in 2011 showed that 1,631 fugitives on corruption charges were arrested, a 27-percent year-on-year increase. Proceeds from their crimes worth 7.7 billion yuan ($1.24 billion) have been recovered.

In 2011, Luo Yinguo, former deputy Party chief of Maoming in Guangdong, was detained for accepting bribes and abuses of power. Luo possessed faked identity cards that he used to easily cross the border. Luo's children also possessed foreign citizenships.

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