Keys to power breed corrupt aides

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 14 January, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 14 January, 2009, 12:00am

Their titles may not be impressive, and they may operate behind the scenes, but they hold the keys to the corridors of power. They are the most valued connections businessmen and officials want to cultivate - and bribe.

They are the personal secretaries of local leaders, ministerial heads and state leaders.

These secretaries are often appointed by their bosses directly without proper recruitment procedures. The higher their bosses' positions on the ladder and the more resources the bosses control, the more powerful are their secretaries.

They often decide their bosses' schedules, who they meet and which functions they attend, and some may even collaborate with local officials to decide what to showcase to their bosses during inspection tours - a precious chance for local officials to impress their superiors and earn political brownie points, according to Outlook Weekly, a publication supervised by Xinhua.

Secretaries can even influence what contracts their bosses approve and award. They are also often the trusted go-betweens who receive bribes on their bosses' behalf if their bosses are corrupt.

If their bosses have enough influence, the secretaries might obtain senior posts in the political hierarchy themselves as rewards for their services.

Official media and academics refer to the phenomenon as 'secretary corruption'.

A Southern Metropolis Daily article yesterday named some of the corrupt secretaries behind disgraced bosses. Qin Yu , who was secretary to former Shanghai party secretary Chen Liangyu - sentenced to 18 years' jail for accepting 6.8 million yuan (HK$7.7 million) in bribes - was sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve.

Li Zhen , the infamous 'Henan No 1 secretary', was sentenced to death for embezzling 10.5 million yuan. Of the two secretaries employed by Zheng Xiaoyu , the former State Food and Drug Administration head who was executed for taking bribes, one was given a suspended death sentence and one was jailed for five years.

The Outlook Weekly said secretary corruption had become an important trend as secretaries were always implicated whenever a senior official was punished for corruption.

Zhang Ming , a professor of political science at Renmin University, said some secretaries might even meet to exchange news, form alliances and influence a department's policymaking.

Li Chengyan , a professor in the school of government at Peking University, told the magazine there was a lack of supervision of secretaries as other officials did not want to upset the secretaries' bosses.

Yang Zhonghong , an assistant professor at Beijing Institute of Petrochemical Technology, said personal secretaries should be appointed in the same way as other cadres and officials should not choose their own secretary.