Officials' help for triads alarms top law enforcers
Vivien Pik-Kwan Chan in Beijing
Two top law enforcers yesterday criticised the alarming trend of local officials acting as a 'protective umbrella' for triad gangsters.
China's chief prosecutor, Han Zhubin, said in his report to the National People's Congress yesterday that 345 officials were prosecuted last year for sheltering gangsters and accepting bribes to turn a blind eye to organised crime. The officials also tipped off suspects about investigations and tolerated smuggling and illegal businesses in return for pay-offs.
'Some of the officials are themselves key members in triad societies,' said Mr Han, of the Supreme People's Procuratorate, adding that such collaboration between officials and illegal elements was a serious danger to social stability.
Cases of organised crime and violent crime involving guns, explosives and other weapons soared last year as courts handled 729,958 criminal cases, the president of the Supreme People's Court, Xiao Yang, told the NPC.
The courts heard 350 cases of mafia-style organised crime, six times the figure in 2000, Mr Xiao said. Sentences for crimes involving shootings and explosions jumped 81.6 per cent to 12,005, he said.
Mr Han and Mr Xiao vowed to strike hard against such crimes in the coming year. Extra efforts would also be taken to deal severely with subversion and people who were a threat to national unity, including terrorists and banned groups such as Falun Gong.
Liaoning delegate Feng Yuzhong said official graft and gangsters hooking up with local officials demonstrated that political reform was desperately needed.
'It is now important to boost the people's power, let the people supervise the Government - but not through anti-graft organisations,' Professor Feng, of Liaoning University, said.
'People's power should be expanded while Government power should be reduced. The Government should retreat from business project approvals and its administrative mechanism should be more transparent. In this way individuals will not need to bribe officials to get what they want and gangsters won't get a through-train ticket just by bribing senior local officials,' the veteran legislator said.
Shandong delegate Qiu Weizheng, who works for the Shandong Railway Bureau, echoed Professor Feng's call, saying that structural reform would block loopholes open to abuse.
'The railway system is a semi-military operation which demands accuracy and multiple checks. Its tight regulations and operation mechanism minimise the chances of officials taking bribes or embezzling funds,' he said.
The chief prosecutor and the top judge admitted that China's prosecution team and courts fell short of public expectations. They conceded that hundreds of officials punished for graft came from their own ranks.
Prosecutors investigated 36,447 corruption cases involving 40,195 people and funds worth 4.1 billion yuan (HK$3.8 billion) last year. That compared to 45,113 corruption cases investigated in 2000. The Communist Party's top graft-fighter, Wei Jianxing, said last week that the number of corruption cases peaked in 1993-1998 and was now declining.