Following the Chinese Communist Party’s 18th National Congress in November 2012, an anti-corruption drive has been in full swing in the country, causing repercussions of unprecedented proportions.
While most mainlanders support President Xi Jinping’s anti-graft campaign, his tough stance has rattled the cage of some of the high-ranking party officials who, like Xi himself, belong to the so-called Second Red Generation (descendants of the founding fathers of the People’s Republic).
The party officials think Xi’s heavy-handedness in busting corrupt cadre is one step too far, and that it may threaten party cohesion or even the nation’s broader economy in the long run.
Although Xi may have sensed the undercurrent of discontent among some of his fellow senior party colleagues, he is apparently determined not to let anything stand in the way of his anti-corruption campaign.
The top leader has signaled that he won’t stop until the war on corruption is won.
Xi’s campaign, mainland media has noted, is the largest and highest-level anti-graft movement seen in the country since the People’s Republic was founded in 1949.
According to media reports, between December 2012 and April 2016, some 160 high-ranking administrative and military officials were removed from office and put on trial over corruption charges.
Some observers say that the number of corrupt officials rounded up and thrown in jail during the current campaign has exceeded the total number of officials convicted of graft over the past 60 years combined.
Among the most high-profile figures nailed by President Xi were Zhou Yongkang, the former party secretary of the Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission; Bo Xilai, former party secretary of the Chongqing municipal committee; and Ling Jihua, former director of the General Office of the Central Committee; as well as Xu Chaihou and Guo Boxun, two top army generals.
Zhou Yongkang is the first member of the Standing Committee of the Politburo ever to face criminal charges over the past 30 years. The action against him helps dispel the popular myth that members of the high-level committee are immune to any criminal prosecution.
In fact, Zhou’s conviction and removal from office shows that President Xi is taking no prisoners in his fight against corruption. No matter how high-ranking or powerful a person is, if he is found guilty of corruption, he will be put behind bars.
As far as petty corruption on the provincial level is concerned, Xi has adopted a new approach to punishment. Rather than expelling them from the party or removing them from office totally, he has ordered that 16 provincial chiefs convicted of petty corruption be punished by substantial demotion in order to make an example of them.
Meanwhile, a challenge facing Chinese authorities is how to bring to book the corrupt officials who have fled the country. To address the issue, Beijing has opened an “overseas front” in its war on corruption, having concluded extradition treaties with 39 countries so far.
Under the code name “Operation Skynet”, last year alone Chinese authorities, with the help of overseas law enforcement agencies, extradited a whopping 1,623 corrupt officials from other countries, and recovered 3 billion yuan in bribe money.
Earlier this month, the People’s Daily published the full text of an anti-corruption speech that Xi delivered a few months ago.
During the speech, the Chinese leader called on all party members to remain on full alert against any corrupt syndicates or vested interests that are still operating within the party. It is expected that more corrupt officials will be identified and brought to justice this year.
Some legal experts in Beijing have suggested that authorities should tighten the existing anti-graft law further, and also enhance the oversight of the executive branch, in order to get to the root of corruption.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on May 17.
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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