Bo Xilai

Full disclosure not hard to implement

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 22 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 22 May, 2012, 12:00am


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When a Beijing Communist Party newspaper challenged the US ambassador to China, Gary Locke, to disclose his personal assets, the assumption was that, like Chinese authorities faced with such a demand, he would remain silent. But the effort to embarrass the American who was front-and-centre of the Chen Guangcheng affair failed. Promptly, the details and salaries and expenses of US State Department officials were revealed. So surprising was the transparency that internet users are asking why it does not happen on the mainland.

Chinese have every right to raise the question, given the scale of corruption among officials. The discussion is especially pertinent after the fall of Chongqing party chief Bo Xilai , who had a monthly salary of about 10,000 yuan (HK$12,309), yet, with relatives, had accumulated at least US$136 million. Public declarations of personal assets are commonplace internationally as a basic anti-corruption measure and safeguard against conflicts of interest. There is no reason why they should not be a part of government on the mainland. Officials are required to report on income, investments and property interests and the employment status of closest relatives, but details are not made public. Premier Wen Jiabao has pushed for a system of disclosure, and a handful of pilot schemes have been launched by municipal authorities. Guangdong party boss Wang Yang has proposed the nation's first provincial plan. Scatterings of information have been made available and the matter has been raised at party congresses, but Beijing has not acted on the idea.

It is not a difficult system to implement. Taiwan's 'sunshine' laws would readily suit. They require government officials, their spouses and dependants, to declare publicly each year all assets at home and abroad. An example could be set by those taking the helm with the coming change of leadership.