Staff of the CPC commission of disciplinary inspection of Liancheng, Fujian Province, together with staff in taxation, auditing and market regulation departments, examine the sales record of a local supermarket to find clue of corruption in April (XINHUA)
A sweeping reform of the supervisory system has been rolled out across China since November 5, about one year after the decision to pilot it in Beijing as well as Zhejiang and Shanxi provinces was announced.
It is a major reform of the political system initiated by the central Party leadership, lauded Xiao Pei, Vice Minister of the Ministry of Supervision.
The fundamental purpose of the supervisory reform is to strengthen the Party's leadership in the fight against corruption; link the Party's discipline enforcement with government law enforcement; and incorporate anti-corruption and anti-dereliction forces in supervisory and corruption prevention agencies as well as procuratorates, Xiao said.
He explained the aim of this reform at a press conference held on the sidelines of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), which concluded in Beijing in October. Expanding the reform from the pilot regions to the whole country is an effort to implement the decisions of the congress.
A far-reaching change
The 19th CPC National Congress decided to set up supervisory commissions at all administrative levels to ensure that everyone who works in the public sector and wields some power comes under supervision. A national supervisory commission at the top will be set up to oversee supervisory commissions at the provincial, municipal and county levels.
The commissions differ from the Party discipline inspection commissions, which focus on the enforcement of Party discipline.
Zhao Leji, the new chief of the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI), China's top anti-graft agency, urged Party committees and disciplinary agencies at all levels to fully comprehend the significance of this reform.
It is a measure for the strict governance of the Party, whose target is to achieve a crushing victory against corruption and modernize the national governance system and capability, Zhao said while giving a briefing on the importance of the strategic measure during a teleconference in Taiyuan, capital of Shanxi, on November 11.
The reform, once in full swing, would alter the structure of the state, said Li Yongzhong, Vice President of the China Academy of Discipline Inspection and Supervision.
The current state structure, as stipulated by the Constitution, features the National People's Congress (NPC), the highest organ of state power, at the top. All administrative, judicial and procuratorial organs of the state are created by the people's congresses to which they are responsible and by which they are supervised.
On December 25, 2016, the 25th Session of the 12th NPC Standing Committee decided to pilot the reform in Beijing, Shanxi and Zhejiang. It said supervisory commissions at various levels would be created and supervised by people's congresses at the same level. The commissions would also report to their higher-level supervisory commissions.
With the creation of a national supervisory commission, the NPC will have one more state organ to supervise, Li said.
To set up supervisory commissions independent of administrative organs means a change to the existing structure of the state, and calls for an amendment to the Constitution, added Qin Qianhong, a professor at Wuhan University School of Law. Hence it is a major reform of the political system, she added.
Currently, there are anti-graft watchdogs in various organs, including commissions for discipline inspection of the Party, people's procuratorates and governmental supervision agencies such as audit departments, which are respectively Party, judicial and administrative organs, said Ma Huaide, Vice President of China University of Political Science and Law.
Though the CCDI plays a major role in the current anti-corruption drive, yet it is a Party organ and some of the corrupt acts were committed by people who are not Party members. A state organ is needed to coordinate the fight against corruption, said Ren Guoyong, Deputy Director of the Center for Anti-Corruption and Governance in Tsinghua University.
As to how the supervisory commissions will function, Xiao explained in detail. First, they will work together with the Party's discipline inspection commissions as one office while keeping their own identities. Second, supervisory commissions will be given responsibilities, powers and means of investigation in accordance with the law.
According to the NPC's document on piloting the supervisory reform issued in December 2016, the duty of the supervisory commissions is to oversee whether public employees have performed their duties according to law, exercised their rights impartially, behaved ethically and whether they had committed corruption. The commissions will investigate crimes related to dereliction of duty and abuse of power and transfer the accused to procuratorates.
Supervisory commissions are not judicial organs. They deal with corruption-related crimes rather than regular crimes, and use investigative methods different from regular criminal investigation methods, Xiao said.
He said that in Beijing, Shanxi and Zhejiang where the reform was piloted, the commissions are authorized to employ up to 12 different investigative measures, including some used by existing administrative supervisory organs such as conducting an inquiry, and freezing and seizing assets.
However, he added that technical investigations would still be conducted by relevant existing departments following existing provisions. The supervisory commissions will not undertake such probes.
The supervisory commissions will use detention rather than the practice of shuanggui, a disciplinary measure used by the CPC to detain and investigate its members at a designated place and a designated time for alleged disciplinary violations.
Since 2012, China has intensified its fight against corruption by "hunting tigers and swatting flies," snaring many corrupt high and low-ranking officials.
The CPC introduced an eight-point frugality code in December 2012 to improve Party conduct. Officials are urged to go to the grassroots to learn about the real situations, reduce their pomp during visits and meetings, simplify documents, limit overseas visits and reduce news coverage of them, and exercise thrift.
The code aims to curb the practice of formalities for formalities' sake, bureaucratism, hedonism and extravagance.
In the past five years, the CCDI has painstakingly implemented the eight-point code, which has resulted in improving Party conduct.
Xiao said since 2012, the CCDI has investigated and treated 189,000 cases of violation of the eight-point code, and punished 256,000 Party members and cadres.
The pilots in Beijing, Shanxi and Zhejiang have also produced tangible results.
Three years ago, Shanxi Province in northern China hit the headlines for an unsavory reason. A slew of corruption cases racked the coal-rich province, resulting in seven senior officials as well as hundreds of lower-level ones being put under investigation.
Since Shanxi piloted the supervisory system reform earlier this year together with Zhejiang and Beijing, change has been in the air.
According to Xinhua News Agency, from January to August, Shanxi had handled 30,587 clues indicating corruption and other malpractices, up 40.4 percent from the same period in the previous year. During that period, 11,261 cases had been investigated, up 26.4 percent year on year, while 10,557 persons had been punished, 11.7 percent more.
Earlier this month, the CPC Beijing Municipal Commission of Discipline Inspection also announced the effect of the pilot reform. It said that since the introduction of the reform at the beginning of this year, 997,000 public post holders had been put under supervision. Also, this year, 31 fugitives wanted for corruption had been captured, twice the number in 2016.
Nonetheless, President Xi Jinping's report at the 19th CPC National Congress said that the fight against corruption remains grave and complex. So the Party would impose tight constraints and maintain a tough stance and long-term deterrence. It would punish both those taking bribes and those offering them, and prevent the rise of interest groups within the Party.
The focus of investigation and punishment will be leading cadres who have been subjects of strongly complaint, those who are in important positions and might be promoted, and interest groups making political mistakes and getting involved in corruption, the report said.
Now, with the supervision system reform being launched nationwide, the anti-corruption drive will receive a boost. On November 12, Henan Province in central China convened a meeting on deepening the reform and adopted a work plan. The next day, Jilin Province in the northeast held a similar meeting to deliberate its plan to implement the reform.
Copyedited by Sudeshna Sarkar
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