Wang Qishan (center), Secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, speaks at a symposium on supervisory system reform in Beijing on November 25, 2016 (XINHUA)
The reform of China's supervision system made further progress in January with the launch of independent supervisory commissions in Beijing Municipality and Shanxi and Zhejiang provinces to oversee all public employees.
The commissions were established following a pilot program approved by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), the top legislature, in December 2016. The program is intended to establish supervisory commissions at three levels—provincial, municipal and county—to form a unified, authoritative and efficient supervision system. It comes with a timetable that requires establishing the provincial supervisory commissions in the three regions by March and at municipal and county levels by June.
A national supervisory commission is expected to be established in March 2018, according to Wang Qishan, Secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI), the Party's top anti-corruption watchdog, in a report at the CCDI's seventh plenary session in January.
An institutional reform
"The reform aims to cover all those who hold public posts and fight corruption resolutely," said Wang Yukai, a professor at the Chinese Academy of Governance, adding that it offers new measures for the rule of law and governing the CPC strictly that will improve the anti-corruption drive.
The new system integrates the functions of the current supervision authorities, corruption prevention agencies, as well as departments handling bribery and dereliction of duty or prevention of duty-related crimes under procuratorates at different levels.
According to Xiao Pei, Vice Minister of Supervision, the new commissions will supervise not only functionaries in Party organs and legislative, administrative and judicial bodies, but also members of non-Communist parties and the All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce. They will also monitor executives of state-owned enterprises and government-sponsored institutions as well as those in mass organizations.
The commissions are authorized to employ up to 12 different measures, including surveillance, interrogation, detention, and freezing of assets, Xiao said at a press conference in Beijing on January 9. "The ultimate goal is to build a national organ that can mobilize more anti-corruption resources," he pointed out.
"A highlight of the reform is the integration of various anti-graft powers, which will improve the status of supervisory bodies in the political hierarchy, making the supervisory system more authoritative and efficient," said Jiang Ming'an, a law professor at Peking University.
According to Jiang, the supervisory commissions have a different function from that of the CPC's discipline inspection commissions. They will handle breaches of law while the Party discipline inspection commissions will focus on the enforcement of Party discipline.
Unlike government supervisory departments, the new commissions will have their heads elected by people's congresses. The commissions will be responsible to the legislative bodies at their own level as well as supervisory commissions at a higher level, running parallel to the government.
"This is in accordance with democratic supervision and will help build a more rigorous legal supervision system," said Ma Huaide, a law professor at the China University of Political Science and Law.
Liao Yongyuan, former General Manager of China National Petroleum Corp., is sentenced to 15 years in prison for accepting bribes and holding a huge unaccountable property at Dezhou Intermediate People’s Court, in Shandong Province, on January 19 (XINHUA)
Four years of efforts have stopped the spread of corruption and gained "crushing momentum" in the battle against graft, said President Xi Jinping, who is also general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, at the CCDI plenary session in January. The objective of ensuring officials do not dare to be corrupt has been basically achieved, Xi added, concluding that a new atmosphere is emerging in the political life within the Party.
According to a recent survey by the National Bureau of Statistics, 92.9 percent of the respondents said they were satisfied with the anti-corruption efforts and the work on clean governance in 2016. It showed an increase of 17.9 percentage points since 2012.
In the last four years, over 1.16 million corruption cases were investigated and nearly 1.2 million people punished for violating CPC and government rules, said Wu Yuliang, Deputy Secretary of the CCDI, on January 9. Wu also said over 2,500 economic fugitives have been brought back home from more than 70 countries and regions since 2014 and assets worth nearly 8.6 billion yuan ($1.24 billion) have been recovered.
China has extradition treaties with 48 countries, including France, Spain and Italy. However, there are still many fugitives in the United States and Canada because of the lack of bilateral extradition treaties with them, according to Liu Jianchao, Director of the CCDI's International Cooperation Bureau.
The International Criminal Police Organization issued a red notice for the capture of the 100 most wanted Chinese fugitives in April 2015. Though 37 have been sent back from more than 16 countries and regions, half of the rest are still hiding in the United States and Canada.
"For the United States and other non-treaty countries, the CCDI is willing to negotiate, based on mutual respect, mutual benefit and mutual concerns," Liu said at the press conference on January 9.
According to the CCDI, a new round of the multi-agency Sky Net campaign will start in March or April. The campaign began in April 2015 to coordinate efforts between different departments and bring fugitive officials back home.
"No matter who is involved and wherever they flee, we will make every effort to bring them back to face justice," Liu said.
Since the 18th CPC National Congress in late 2012, while cracking down on corrupt officials at both senior and primary levels, China has also launched an eight-point frugality campaign to curb extravagance and improve officials' work style. The eight points include banning red-carpet receptions for officials and use of public vehicles for private affairs as well as enforcing austerity in official meals, travel and housing.
In addition, the CPC has stepped up efforts to strengthen Party discipline with the formulation and revision of several regulations. In November 2016, two new documents on the Party's code of conduct were adopted at the Sixth Plenary Session of the 18th CPC Central Committee. They were the Norms of Political Life Within the Party Under the New Situation and the Intra-Party Supervision Regulation.
Wu told the press conference on January 9 that the NPC Standing Committee is considering formulating a supervision law to push forward national legislation on anti-corruption.
Checks and balances
Besides the supervisory system reform, the CCDI plenary session also passed work rules to regulate the supervisory power of disciplinary officials. Over the past four years, more than 7,900 disciplinary inspectors across the country have been punished for various types of wrongdoing, with 17 from the CCDI being placed under investigation in graft probes.
"Inspection of inspectors is urgently needed," said Zhuang Deshui, an associate professor on anti-graft studies at Peking University.
The new rules clarify procedures for handling cases, including collection and verification of facts, filing cases, hearings, and how to dispose of the money and goods involved in a case. "Preventing corruption inside discipline inspection organs requires self-discipline based on rules and institutions," Zhuang said. "The new rules make disciplinary inspectors' work more transparent and clear to the public, greatly reducing the risk of misconduct."
Xie Chuntao, a professor at the Party School of the CPC Central Committee, said the new rules are an important institutional tool to improve internal operations of discipline inspection organs. "As China's anti-corruption fight intensifies, it is necessary to put institutional restrictions on the power of inspectors as well," he added.
A communiqué issued after the CCDI plenary session said the rules will help combine discipline within inspection organs with supervision within the Party and by the public, ensuring that the power to inspect is not abused.
In July 2016, the CPC implemented its first intra-Party accountability regulation that holds Party officials across all levels and divisions accountable for poor leadership.
Today, there are 119 documents on the accountability mechanism, focusing on administrative accountability in accidents and incidents. The new regulation sums up the existing Party rules and clarifies the subjects, situations and punishments in the accountability mechanism.
According to Zheng Zhencheng, an official with the CCDI, nine ministerial-level organs have issued detailed measures to implement the intra-Party accountability regulation.
Copyedited by Sudeshna Sarkar
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