China's new Central Committee members urged to disclose assets

In an open letter, lawyers, academics and professionals urge new Central Committee members to set an example in graft fight

PUBLISHED : Friday, 14 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 14 December, 2012, 1:39pm

More than 1,000 lawyers, academics and professionals signed an open letter calling for newly chosen members of the Communist Party's Central Committee to publicly disclose their family assets to rein in corruption.

The letter, to be sent to the National People's Congress, argues that the 205 members of the powerful committee must reassure the public that they are doing only the people's business. Signatories said they were emboldened by new general secretary Xi Jinping's warning last month that corruption threatens the party's rule.

"In the face of a grave situation, we ask the officials to declare their assets from the top down in accordance with their seniority," the letter said.

"They control huge public resources and authorities, which has a bearing on the happiness and well being of 1.3 billion people," it said.

Sun Hanhui , a Beijing-based corporate legal adviser who co-authored the letter, said the letter and signatures would be sent to the NPC, the mainland's legislature, in time for its March meeting.

Public calls for disclosure of officials' assets - widely seen as a key first step in fighting corruption - have gained momentum in recent months amid a raft of scandals that have implicated several high-ranking officials, including former Poliburo member Bo Xilai.

Premier Wen Jiabao was also dragged into the debate in October after The New York Times published an exposé claiming his family had amassed a hidden fortune of more than US$2.7 billion during his time in office. His family denied the allegations.

Before his elevation to the Politburo's powerful Standing Committee last month, former Shanghai party secretary Yu Zhengsheng said that he could accept a decision by the central government to mandate disclosure as he had nothing to hide.

Guangdong party secretary Wang Yang, who is seen as a leading party voice for reform, also said at the 18th national party congress that leaders should look for ways to mandate disclosure at provincial level.

Yantai University Professor Wang Quanjie, a former National People's Congress deputy and campaigner for transparency, said the party should have forced disclosure decades ago.

"To start with the top echelon is the only way to get it done as they can set an example for other officials to follow suit," said Wang, who also signed the letter.