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CommentInsight & Opinion

To fight corruption, China must push to disclose leaders' wealth

PUBLISHED : Friday, 19 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 19 April, 2013, 2:49am

A fundamental weapon in the fight against corruption in high places is public disclosure of officials' household assets. If enshrined in law, strictly adhered to and properly administered, there will be less chance of corrupt practices and greater accountability and transparency. Above all, for a government, it is a foundation for building trust. With the leaders of the US and Russia having recently released their tax reports and France's ministers revealing their wealth, China's lack of such a requirement is starkly prominent.

Corruption is one of China's biggest scourges. President Xi Jinping has rightly made its eradication a priority. Yet, after two decades of discussion at National People's Congress level, there has been limited progress. Asset disclosure requirements remain regulations set by the Communist Party and State Council and reports receive only internal scrutiny.

Implementation is being held back by reluctance; in all countries, revealing income and personal assets is a sensitive matter. On the mainland, though, there is the added problem of corruption being so rampant that the party fears mandatory disclosure could further damage its image and legitimacy. There was no support for a national system at its last plenary meeting of anti-graft officials. All manner of reasons have been given, from technical to personal to political. Nor, given the poor manner in which those agitating for measures are treated, would it seem there will be progress any time soon. Outrageously, activists, lawyers among them, were again detained in Beijing yesterday for simply calling for disclosure.

But continuing to ignore the growing clamour is not an option. A series of scandals in recent months has revealed some officials have amassed huge fortunes. Among them was Guangzhou urban management officer Cai Bin, who was found to have 22 properties valued at more than 35.5 million yuan, despite having a monthly income of just 10,000 yuan. Foreign media claims last year that the families of top leaders, Wen Jiabao's prominent among them, have also acquired great wealth, have exacerbated pressure for change. Concern about rising prices and the income gap do not help.

A mechanism for asset declaration has to cover not just civil servants and officials, but also spouses and children. Ignoring the calls will only increase distrust. Leadership from the top is needed; the Politburo Standing Committee's seven members should get the process moving by making full declarations.


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Some estimates state that globally there may be US$20 trillion of laundered money in offshore bank accounts, most in the name of nominee companies. Think of the value of all the 'business' this money mountain generates to those who make their livings administering it for their powerful, crooked clients.
Scandalously, it appears that most of the world's developing countries are controlled and governed by viciously greedy kleptocracies, while their poorer fellow citizens pay the price in deprivation and injustice. Even in the developed world, corruption in public life is certainly not as rare as one might hope, even though most ordinary citizens and public servants are honest. Corruption is now so much an integral part of the economic, administrative and political life of China that it is almost certainly impossible to control or curb. The best to hope for is the ruling clique puts its rivals in prison or executes them. The elite are totally above any law, because the laws are not respected or enforced against the rulers, but only against the ruled. There are such vast sums of money being generated that there is no genuine will to change.
Without an open political system accountable to the people and a free and independent media there is no hope for change and making statements resounding with high sounding principles will remain nothing but empty rhetoric. This staggering scale of theft could destabilise the entire world and threaten the liberties of all free peoples.
Who would work for the communist party without some massive incentive?
Corruption is the communist party's raison d'etre.
Simply disclosing without an independent body like ICAC of Hk and media involved will be useless. Also, the government has to substantially increase the salary and benefits of the civil servants to match the private sector at the level we are doing in HK and Singapore. That probably will put chinese into huge fiscal deficit. Plus they almost have to close down Macau or cut in half as business will drop drastically.
"Among them was Guangzhou urban management officer Cai Bin, who was found to have 22 properties valued at more than 35.5 million yuan, despite having a monthly income of just 10,000 yuan". In Hk this guy will probably make 100k a month as civil servants plus great retirement and benefits, without adding these it will be hard to fight corruption at all levels.


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