War against graft 'far from over'

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 11 March, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 11 March, 2000, 12:00am

Ministers said yesterday the Government's war against corruption and smuggling was far from won despite a growing number of big-time culprits being caught.

Delivering his work report to National People's Congress delegates, the President of the Supreme People's Court, Xiao Yang, pledged that no corrupt official could escape the reach of the law.

In his report, Mr Xiao announced the launch of a two-year initiative to clean up and improve county-level courts, which he said tried most cases.

Mr Xiao also said transparency of court trials would be improved and judges would be held responsible for mistrials. .

He highlighted the examples of Sun Xiaohong, former president of Yunnan Higher People's Court, and Yao Xiaohong, a court official in Shanxi province, saying their cases showed Beijing was determined to fight graft.

Mr Xiao said Sun had been sacked and Yao faced life imprisonment for taking bribes.

His report said courts last year tried more than 539,000 criminal cases, up 12.27 per cent over 1998, and more than 600,000 criminals were sentenced, an increase of 14.02 per cent.

Mr Xiao called for a crackdown on computer crime and continued battles against prostitution, tax evasion, fraud, smuggling and other crimes that have become widespread in the past two decades of economic reform.

But the court president admitted that poor quality of local judicial officials was the problem.

Referring to the Yuan Hua smuggling scandal in Xiamen, Fujian province, Minister of Supervision He Yong said although the senior leadership was committed, investigations were difficult because many of the key suspects had fled the country.

Officials have described the scandal as China's biggest smuggling scam since 1949.

On Thursday, the deputy procurator-general of Fujian, Zhang Tongmen, said the case would be concluded by mid-year and details of the investigation made public.

But Mr Zhang denied that Lai Changxing, who ran the Yuan Hua, or Fairwell Group, had been arrested and sent back to China. Earlier reports said Lai had fled to Burma since the scandal was exposed last year.

The Director of General Administration of Customs, Qian Guanlin, admitted yesterday his department had been plagued by lax management.

'It would be irresponsible if I say there was no problem in the Customs department,' he said.

But he claimed large-scale smuggling had been halted and smugglers now operated on a smaller scale. He said the General Administration revamped the leadership of 11 local Customs offices last year and investigated more than 300 Customs officers for alleged corruption.