China is introducing a new corruption watchdog to enforce a cleaner civil service but some legal experts worry it will boost President Xi Jinping ’s already substantial clout, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Officials say the “national supervisory commission” will target graft and dereliction of duty from lowly functionaries to top government figures, with powers to interrogate and detain suspects, freeze assets and, in some cases, render punishment.
The commission, which is undergoing regional trials ahead of a nationwide rollout next year, aims to merge the roles of several government supervisory departments and prosecutorial offices, centralizing oversight of China’s vast bureaucracy.
On paper, the watchdog will answer directly to a rubber-stamp parliament. But in practice, officials say, the commission will share personnel and responsibilities with a powerful disciplinary agency that answers to Xi’s 89-million-strong Communist Party.
“To use a Chinese saying, it’s ‘one group of personnel, two plaques,’” Xiao Pei, vice minister at China’s Ministry of Supervision, said Monday at a news briefing.
“Our aim in deepening reforms of the national supervisory system is to strengthen the party’s centralized and unified leadership over anti-corruption efforts.”
Since taking power in late 2012, Xi has pursued a withering crackdown on graft that has sidelined rivals, bolstered his popularity, and helped raise his stature as China’s most dominant leader in decades.
Last week, Xi told top party disciplinarians that “the spread of corruption has been effectively contained.” But he urged more efforts to improve institutional safeguards, including tougher supervision mechanisms.
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