Nationalist paper plays down need for officials’ asset disclosure

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 October, 2013, 9:29pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 October, 2013, 9:50pm

A nationalist newspaper has played down the need for officials to declare their assets in China following appeals from the public in response to anti-graft comments made by the Russian prime minister.

“Hardly any information nowadays in China is regarded as sufficiently authoritative … thus disclosing officials' assets online is doomed to stir endless controversy regarding their authenticity and fairness,” the commentary in the Global Times said, warning that such measures would risk “dragging society into turmoil fuelled by ideological quarrels.”

The article, by Shan Renping, a pen name widely speculated as belonging to the publication’s editor in chief Hu Xijin, came a day after Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s anti-graft comments to Chinese internet users on Tuesday during his two-day visit to China.

“Just like leaders of any other nation, I have to declare [my financial status] … so everyone knows how much their president and prime minister earn, what their and their family members’ possessions are,” Medvedev said when asked to comment on asset disclosure law in Russia. “I think this measure is universal. [Countries in the] whole world are doing it. It’s nothing special.”

Medvedev’s comments prompted many internet users to urge government to implement similar laws in China to help combat graft.

“Official asset disclosure is an unstoppable global trend,” one online user commented on news portal

Another said, “There is nowhere for corruption to hide if state leaders can set examples by disclosing their assets.”

But the commentary claimed government corruption in Russia was more severe than that in China, citing a report by non-governmental organisation Transparency International that last year ranked China 80th and Russia 133rd in the world in terms of corruption activity.

“It is both laughable and regrettable for China and Russia to compare themselves to each other on western-style political standards,” the article said. “What ought to be done instead is to continue implementation of an asset declaration scheme within the Communist Party. This will restrain corruption while at the same time avoid causing disastrous social chaos.”

A number of officials in the past few years have expressed concern that China is not yet ready to adopt the scheme. Wu Yuliang, deputy head of the nation’s anti-graft organ the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, once claimed that it was not appropriate to publicise officials’ assets due to a lack of public trust and a potent statistics system.

“The arguments in the commentary are used to justify the fact that the government has done little to implement the law,” said Willy Lam, a Chinese University of Hong Kong professor specialising in Chinese politics.

“Adopting a scheme to disclose officials’ and their family members’ assets is a key component in an anti-graft drive in China, but currently it is only being carried out as pilot programmes within the Party in certain low level districts. It does not affect any senior leaders,”

Lam said. “This is due to due to opposition from current and former senior officials.”