Graft has undermined party's grip on power, premier warns

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 06 March, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 06 March, 2010, 12:00am

Beijing has renewed its pledge to keep graft at bay, with Premier Wen Jiabao warning yesterday that corruption has undermined the Communist Party's grip on power.

In his annual work report outlining government plans for the year ahead, Wen said the anti-corruption campaign should stay at the top of the agenda as it 'directly affects the legitimacy of [the Communist Party's] grip on power'.

He called on leading cadres at all levels to disclose their personal financial situations and property - including income, housing and investment, and their spouse's and children's jobs - to disciplinary inspection authorities. 'We must make the investigation and prosecution of major violations of the law and discipline important tasks,' Wen said.

But critics were sceptical about the impact of asset disclosure, since the information would not be made public but provided to disciplinary inspection authorities often disinclined to carry out cross-checks.

Last year, several mainland cities began trial programmes requiring officials to report their assets after growing calls for such disclosure in recent years. Rampant corruption has long been a key concern for both the public and the government.

Wen said corruption and excessive bureaucracy were partly to blame for the government's work falling considerably short of public expectations.

Critics said Wen's appeal for asset disclosure was a step forward in the anti-corruption drive, but would achieve little if officials' personal assets were not subject to public scrutiny.

Hu Xingdou, a Beijing-based politics expert, said the information should be made public and laws introduced to give the inspection authorities more power to cross-check.

'The inclusion of asset disclosure in the Government Work Report is a sign that the government really wants to establish a 'sunshine' [more transparent] government,' Hu said. 'But if the public is left out, this means nobody will double-check if the officials are being honest. The disciplinary inspection authorities usually just collect the forms of disclosure and do nothing because they don't have the power and the will to do so.'

Scores of top officials have been brought down for corruption in recent years. Delegates to the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference also raised the issue at their meeting this year in a high-profile anti-graft campaign. after three provincial CPPCC chairmen fell from grace for taking bribes. They are Chen Shaoji from Guangdong, Huang Yao from Guizhou and Sun Shuyi from Shangdong .

Jia Qingguo, a CPPCC member and associate dean of international studies at Peking University, said the system for electing delegates should be revised.