Consultant seeks leniency for guilty

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 17 February, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 17 February, 2007, 12:00am

Management consultant Li Su has sent a letter to the National People's Congress appealing for the 'original sins' of the mainland's business community to be absolved or, at most, subject to leniency.

In the letter, the president of Beijing-based H&J Vanguard Management Consulting said public calls for an investigation into the way entrepreneurs made their first millions in the 1980s and 1990s were a 'serious threat to social harmony and the effectiveness of corruption crackdowns'.

'Countering corruption should not become hatred of wealth, nor should it be developed into a class conflict. The [widening] income gap should be addressed by a better wealth distribution system, instead of having the public vent their outrage on the rich,' he said.

Mr Li is asking authorities for a clear definition of 'original sin' that distinguishes it from criminal activity. Entrepreneurs unfazed by government and industry precedent were a necessary part of the reform process and operated in areas not regulated by law.

In the 1980s, mainland market reforms were launched on a trial basis, as if 'crossing the river by feeling stones'. Private businesspeople who took up the challenge were operating far in advance of the regulators, he said. At the time, people who traded goods from one place to another were called 'speculators or market players', activities punishable by death. But if everyone had obeyed the laws, there would have been no economic development at all, the letter said.

In the 1990s, most irregularities were spurred by local governments' desire for economic development. As officials competed to attract investments, businesspeople followed the administrative lead to acquire resources and preferential treatment, sometimes at the price of the unprivileged. The letter said the major responsibility for the dealings rested with local government, instead of the business sector.

Mr Li said the 'reform pioneers' ought to be forgiven for their early improper ways in light of their huge contributions to the country.

'The central government should use political intelligence to tackle the issue before private capital flows out. They should be guided by the pursuit of justice for the public, but not at the price of the private sector.'

If the rich were found involved in corruption, he suggested that authorities offer lenient penalties to encourage them to give up corrupt officials.

'China should not be vague in this issue,' Mr Li said, adding that clear definition and practical measures were needed.