Corruption in China

Mainland anger over corrupt cadre's early release from jail

Discovery of parole in 2011 of corrupt Shanxi official sentenced to 11 years in 2006 spurs questions about integrity of anti-graft drive

PUBLISHED : Friday, 22 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 22 February, 2013, 6:12am

The early release on parole of a disgraced Shanxi official who was jailed for corruption has sparked a furore on the mainland, with many people voicing doubts about the effectiveness of Beijing's anti-graft drive.

Former Shanxi deputy party secretary Hou Wujie was jailed for 11 years in 2006 for taking 880,000 yuan in bribes, but mainland internet users discovered this week that he was released from jail more than a year ago.

On Monday microbloggers said that Hou was given a "hero's welcome", with gifts of flowers from provincial officials, businessmen and coalmine owners who escorted him home.

The provincial government denied on Tuesday that any Shanxi cadres or coalmine owners had visited Hou, but said Hou was released on parole in October 2011 and was escorted home by his son, China National Radio reported.

The early release sparked furious reactions from the mainland media, internet users and commentators, who said that would deal a blow to the anti-corruption drive.

It is not uncommon for officials sentenced to lengthy prison terms to be given generous probation arrangements.

Lin Chongzhong , the former deputy head of Jiangmen , Guangdong, was granted medical parole by a local court when it sentenced him to 10 years' jail for corruption in 2009, effectively allowing him to return home. Prosecutors expressed frustration with the court's decision, and the provincial anti-graft watchdog received further tip-offs about Lin's misbehaviour.

They are, in theory, convicted, but in practice they enjoy all kinds of prestige treatment through various backdoor means

A subsequent investigation found that Lin had spent 100,000 yuan to bribe people, including doctors, to fake medical reports that he had hypertension. He was sent back to jail in 2010, but his original sentence was not extended.

A commentary in the China Youth Daily said the early release of corrupt officials would inevitably "jeopardise the struggle against corruption and the principle of ruling the nation by law".

Under the mainland's criminal law, prisoners can be released on parole if they have already served half of their sentence and have behaved well in jail.

But Shanghai-based defence lawyer Si Weijiang said there was no oversight of parole approvals. "The officials can easily bribe people and use their connections to manipulate loopholes in the legal system," Si said.

Professor Ren Jianming , of Beihang University, said the government's credibility would be put at risk when convicted officials enjoyed such privileges. "They are, in theory, convicted, but in practice they enjoy all kinds of prestige treatment through various backdoor means," he said.

"All efforts to fight corruption will be meaningless when officials can easily avoid jail."

Si and Ren said the situation would not improve without a major revamp of the legal system that stressed the rule of law, but that would only be possible with major political reform.

Immediately after becoming Communist Party chief in November, Xi Jinping vowed to crack down on corruption, warning the problem could doom the party.