17 November 2018
Unofficial use of government cars could earn cadres a special mention on a weekly corruption newsletter. Photo: Bloomberg
Unofficial use of government cars could earn cadres a special mention on a weekly corruption newsletter. Photo: Bloomberg

Up next: The week that was in official corruption

The KISS principle is the best advice for any cadre in China these days. Whether it’s hosting a wedding banquet or using a government car, local bureaucrats would do well to heed suggestions to “keep it simple, Stupid”. Start accepting too many red packets of cash from well-wishers or driving the official vehicle on a family holiday and a bureaucrat could gain a mention in new weekly dispatches.

The Chinese Communist Party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection and the Ministry of Supervision launched a joint website last week to name and shame offenders who violate the party’s eight-point mandate to clamp down on corruption and extravagance. The site compiles a weekly update on the major cases, and includes an online platform to report offences.

The commission and the ministry are different wings of officialdom but are both headed by Wang Qishan {王岐山}, a member of the party’s central politburo and a close ally of party General Secretary and President Xi Jinping {習近平}. Wang’s mission is to uphold the mandate, a document sent out to all party members in late 2012 after Xi took office to root out malfeasance. The mandate gives special mention to the need to foster close ties with the masses, minimize bureaucracy and avoid lavish banquets and inspection tours.

During the reporting period from April 14-18, investigators exposed 142 of these cases involving numerous local cadres and state-owned enterprise officials, but of the accused are simply low-ranking, front-line civil servants. The investigators have yet to bring in a corrupt “big tiger”.

Most of the cases made public were for misdemeanors like traveling and holding official receptions at the public’s expense, and accepting prepaid shopping cards. The amount, if specified, is usually at most in the thousands of yuan. Most cadres receive an internal verbal warning and no one has been dismissed from his post or even prosecuted.

One case, as reported by the Guangdong provincial party commission for discipline inspection, involved about eight Shenzhen Municipal Urban Management Bureau officials spending 2,427 yuan (US$390) from the public purse on dinner. The price per head was a shade over 300 yuan.

Compare that with the HK$600 (480 yuan) per person their Hong Kong counterparts are allowed to spend on any one dinner, according to the Hong Kong government’s guidelines on official meals. This is also in stark contrast to media reports that a dozen executives from state-owned conglomerate China Resources (Holdings) Co. Ltd. once spent 1.2 million yuan on French wine at a banquet.

One commenter on an online bulletin board suggested the cases mentioned were the tip of the iceberg because improper use of public money is rampant among virtually all cadres and party members.

Observers said the weekly notification is bound to be just window dressing because only minor cases were publicized and offenders did not face concrete penalties. These shenanigans should not be tolerated, they say, but after minnows are caught, the party’s anti-graft commission should find bigger fish to fry.

– Contact the writer at [email protected]



EJ Insight writer

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