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Corruption in China

Liaoning vote-rigging scandal shines a light on G20’s anti-corruption efforts

Jiang Xun says the Hangzhou summit’s agreement on new measures regarding the repatriation of fugitives and recovery of ill-gotten gains has been overshadowed by the focus on economic and diplomatic issues

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 18 September, 2016, 8:01am
UPDATED : Sunday, 18 September, 2016, 5:29pm

As the tourists gradually return to admire the beautiful West Lake following the conclusion of the G20 Summit in Hangzhou ( 杭州 ), the meeting’s achievements are being widely reported and analysed. I also returned there, to meet a good friend for tea by the lakeside. She works in the Zhejiang provincial supervision department, and when we talked about the G20 and B20, she was a bit disappointed that almost everyone had focused on the economic and diplomatic aspects of the summit, while neglecting a very important achievement: the passing of new “high-level principles” on anti-corruption, the repatriation of corrupt fugitives and recovery of embezzled assets, as well as the setting up of a research centre, at Beijing Normal University, focusing on these issues. The summit also approved an anti-corruption action plan for 2017-2018, while the innovative concept of “zero tolerance, zero loopholes and zero barriers” was raised.

Although all these anti-graft achievements did not require a vote by G20 members and China only sought implementation by members’ anti-corruption working groups, the measures were submitted for passing by the summit as a whole. This is an important achievement.The G20 established an anti-corruption cooperation mechanism in 2010 with member states. Yet some of these countries are havens for corrupt officials and major destinations for dubious asset transfers. The global consensus is that anti-corruption efforts by G20 countries are key for international fugitive repatriation and recovery of assets.

China vows to win global support for graft-fugitive hunt and pressure nations that hold out

Since China’s founding of the Fugitive Repatriation and Asset Recovery Office in 2014, major operations, such as Tianwang (Skynet) in 2014 and 2015, have resulted in the arrest of 1,915 fugitives and the recovery of 7.47 billion yuan (HK$8.68 billion) in assets from over 70 countries. Meanwhile, with the exposure of 100 state fugitives and corruption suspects on Interpol’s Red Notice list, a third of them have been caught.

It is understood that one of the biggest topics discussed at the G20 was fugitive repatriation and asset recovery related to the Liaoning ( 遼寧 ) election fraud case, which highlights the Communist Party’s anti-corruption efforts.

On August 26, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection announced the dismissal from his position and the party of Zheng Yuzhuo, who was deputy director of the Liaoning congress’ standing committee. He is said to have taken election bribes and authorised vote-rigging by third parties. According to Liaoning sources, the election bribery case has been under investigation for four months.

At an extraordinary National People’s Congress session held last week to deal with the fallout from the scandal, it was revealed that of the 62 standing committee members of Liaoning’s people’s congress, 38 had been disqualified because of fraud, according to Xinhua. In addition, 523 Liaoning lawmakers – including provincial security chief Su Hongzhang and deputy head of the provincial legislature Wang Yang – helped rig elections that sent 45 colleagues to the national legislature. Those 45 lawmakers have since been dismissed. The Liaoning Provincial Discipline Inspection Commission also announced that Shenyang deputy mayor Qi Ming was being investigated in connection with the case.

China’s legal foundation shaken as 45 lawmakers expelled in unprecedented vote-rigging scandal

The Liaoning election fraud was part of a bigger corruption scandal that saw its former party boss Wang Min, also an NPC Standing Committee member, detained in March. Wang, who was head of Liaoning’s legislature, was later accused of widespread corruption in the local elections and in the promotion of officials.

The scale and numbers involved in this election bribery storm have shocked many people.

The scandal is also a reminder of the case involving Zhang Qingzhao and Fu Yaobo, former members of the labour and social security supervision department in Benxi city, Liaoning province, who were accused of embezzling almost 30 million yuan of public funds before they fled the country in September 2014. They were put on Interpol’s Red Notice list and arrested in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, in the Caribbean, in February this year and subsequently repatriated.

As connections between the Liaoning election bribery case and repatriation of fugitives come to light, the anti-corruption achievements of the G20 might finally get the attention they merit.

Jiang Xun is deputy editor in chief of Yazhou Zhoukan, and editor in chief of Zero New Media. This is translated from the Chinese