Leaders call the dogs off graft kings
Willy Wo-Lap Lam
The party leadership will put at least a temporary moratorium on the prosecution of major corruption cases after wrapping up investigations into the Xiamen and Shantou graft scandals.
Culprits implicated in the multi-billion yuan Xiamen case will be put on trial soon. And judicial procedures for the similarly serious smuggling and corruption scandals centred on the Guangdong port of Shantou are expected to be finished before the end of the year.
A party source said the Politburo leadership had decided that at least in the short term, no more big cases would be put on trial or otherwise exposed to the public.
'The leadership does not want the party's prestige to fall further,' the source said. 'It has also been decided that in the Xiamen and Shantou cases, only cadres with ranks up to vice-ministerial levels would be prosecuted.'
The source added the administration of President Jiang Zemin thought the recently passed death sentence on the former vice-chairman of the National People's Congress, Cheng Kejie, would be sufficient to convince the people the leadership was prepared to hunt down 'big tigers' among corrupt officials.
'The leadership is reluctant to pursue senior officials with good political connections partly for fear the exposure of more such cases will deal a further blow to the party's credibility,' the source said.
It is understood senior officials attending the Beidaihe leadership conferences, most of which have been held, discussed the party's anti-graft strategy at length. A source close to the Beidaihe meetings said yesterday the leadership was anxious to shift public attention to something more positive after the ongoing anti-corruption ideological education campaign was finished.
For example, the source said while investigation into serious graft cases in Hebei and Shandong provinces would continue, it was unlikely they would be publicised in the near future.
This was despite the fact that as with the Xiamen and Shantou scandals, those centred on Hebei and Shandong reportedly involved cadres with ministerial and even Politburo-level ranks.
Analysts familiar with Beijing's anti-graft operations said key party organs such as the Central Commission for Disciplinary Inspection, the Central Committee General Office and the Organisation Department had compiled detailed dossiers on cadres suspected of corruption and other economic crimes.
The analysts said, however, the Politburo would consider factors such as the factional affiliation of individual cadres and the overall political climate before deciding whether the dossiers would be activated - and the suspects be handed over to police and procuratorate authorities.
Recently issued party circulars have also asked officials who have pocketed relatively paltry sums to confess in return for lenient treatment.