Guangdong officials to disclose assets - but not to the public

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 15 October, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 15 October, 2009, 12:00am

Guangdong has become the latest province to order its officials to report their assets and employment information about children and spouses.

But officials' declarations will not be public, prompting concerns little light will be shed on the extent of corruption and that officials will be free to continue gathering wealth.

Zhu Mingguo, the head of Guangdong's party disciplinary committee, said officials at all levels would have to declare assets to relevant disciplinary bodies, the Guangzhou Daily reported yesterday.

The declarations would include income, property and investments under their own names. Close family members, such as spouses and children, are also required to report their employment status. This was aimed at preventing nepotism and the accumulation of unexplained profits. Other family members were not required to disclose assets.

Zhu pledged to root out corruption that led to mass incidents and work safety accidents.

There has been a growing debate this year over how best to put the brakes on rampant corruption among mainland officials.

Forcing officials and their families to disclose assets has proven a popular approach.

An online survey by Xinhua found that corruption was the biggest source of discontent among 63,000 respondents, outstripping dissatisfaction with the economic slowdown and unemployment.

The first place to try the declaration approach was Xinjiang's, Altay city in January. Some 1,000 officials, but only the newly appointed and retired, were ordered to declare assets, details of which were published online. This earned a thumbs up from Premier Wen Jia bao in an online interview in March, and he agreed with internet users' suggestions that the system be implemented nationwide.

Since then, governments at all levels have followed suit. In April, Shanghai ordered 2,000 senior officials to disclose assets to the party. Executives at state-owned enterprises, incumbent and retired, were also ordered to submit to the rule.

In the same month the disciplinary committee of the party in Liuyang , Hunan province, released information on 75 officials on its official website. The information included income, assets, investments, overseas travel and use of public vehicles. Officials had to state whether spouses and children lived abroad, and any income from weddings, funerals and other occasions.

Professor Wang Yukai, a political scientist at the National School of Administration, was optimistic the asset-declaration system would go nationwide because the central government supported it.

'We will see more local governments launching a similar requirement,' he said. 'We should be happy to see more details included in the declaration, such as personal investments and financial dealings of family members.'

But Wang remained concerned about transparency.

'The action taken by Shanghai and Guangdong authorities will be sharply devalued if they only ask officials to report to their department's party disciplinary bodies, instead of letting the public know and asking the public for supervision,' he said. 'Corruption occurs because of a lack of transparency. Hopefully more authorities can follow Liuyang's example and make asset declarations of high-ranking officials public.'


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