Corrupt officials get off lightly: report
Shi Jiangtao in Beijing
Prosecutors tell of increase in cadres granted probation
Mainland courts have come under fire in a report in a Communist Party mouthpiece that says up to 80 per cent of corrupt officials have been given suspended sentences or even exempted from criminal penalties.
The Procuratorate Daily, run by the nation's top prosecution body, said yesterday there had been a marked increase in the granting of probation to cadres convicted of taking bribes and other offences, and that many had been allowed to keep their salaries and jobs in the civil service.
The newspaper reported that about 66 per cent of officials who were convicted of corruption and more than 80 per cent of those found guilty of dereliction of duty last year, were given suspended jail sentences or escaped punishment, up from about 50 per cent in 2001.
'A total of 33,519 people convicted of taking advantage of their official duties were given probation between 2003 and 2005,' it said.
The data did not to cover corrupt officials sentenced to life imprisonment or suspended death sentences, or others who were convicted of criminal charges but were handed only party disciplinary penalties, the report added.
Quoting local prosecutors and lawyers, the report said the high probation rate dealt a heavy blow to the credibility of the government-led anti-corruption campaign and to graft fighters at the grass-roots level.
'It is not simply a legal issue, but also a serious political matter,' it said.
Prosecutor Zheng Xinjian was quoted by the report as saying: 'Procuratorates around the country have tried so hard to prosecute corrupt officials, [cases] which often involve resisting pressure and risking our lives. We are deeply disappointed with such a frequent use of probation and exemption from punishment.'
The report blamed loopholes in existing laws and rampant corruption among local officials and judges for the situation.
An official from the Supreme People's Procuratorate in charge of public prosecution told the newspaper that many cadres used corrupt connections and hired top lawyers to influence judicial punishment.
Peking University law professor Jiang Mingan said the newspaper's allegations had coincided with a heated debate among jurists over whether corrupt officials should be subject to harsh criminal punishments.
'A prevailing view among legal scholars is to exempt them from severe penalties, such as execution, because corruption will not be stamped out by meting out harsh punishment,' Professor Jiang said.
Professor Jiang and Mo Hongxian , a criminal law expert from Wuhan University, called for an overhaul of laws and further reforms of the judicial system.