No sign of anti-corruption law as CPPCC convenes

Leaders worry that legislation might diminish their power, says top official fighting corruption

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 10 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 10 March, 2013, 5:52am

The Communist Party's top disciplinary body has yet to put a draft of the mainland's first anti-corruption law on its agenda, a top anti-graft official said this week, despite frequent pledges to accelerate the process.

Experts say a key reason for the delay is concerns over the party being subjected to outside scrutiny.

"The drafting of the anti-corruption law has not started," Gan Yisheng, the recently retired former deputy chief of the party's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, said last week. In a meeting on the sidelines of the annual session of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference on Tuesday, he urged the party to learn from foreign countries in formulating anti-corruption laws.

"We have been using party discipline to regulate officials, but in the future we should try to regulate them based on laws," he told fellow party members. "When we learn from foreign countries, we should be aware of not rote learning from them, but to always base the lessons we learn on the reality in China."

The party takes the lead in punishing corrupt officials on the mainland, but governments often hand down penalties in the form of demotions or through other minor administrative means.

Gan's remarks follow a speech last month by Wang Qishan , the commission's new head, who said top discipline officials were accelerating the drafting of a national anti-corruption law.

The authorities said conditions for such legislation were "ripe" eight years ago, with speculation at the time pointing to it being enacted by 2010.

A document outlining steps needed to prevent and control corruption promulgated in 2005 said that accelerating the pace of anti-corruption legislation and formulating a special law were top priorities.

A discipline official told state media at the time that as there was no reference to "corrupt crime" in mainland law, and given the fact that conditions were ripe, "it is imperative to revise China's Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure Law and improve related systems in the future".

Wang Changjiang, the head of the department of party building at the Central Party School in Beijing, the party's intellectual inner sanctum, said the biggest problem in drafting an anti-corruption law was that corruption was deeply rooted within the ruling party and would be hard to remove without causing damage.

"It is true that on one hand, fighting corruption is a good way to enhance the prestige and authority of the party, but it is also a double-edged sword because such legislation might damage the power of the ruling party," Wang said. "The officials have to make sure the anti-corruption law will not damage the ruling party's authority before it is launched. It's a very complicated issue."

Wang, also a CPPCC delegate, said recent calls for the urgent introduction of an anti-corruption law reflected a sense of crisis within the leadership, with corruption posing a threat to the legitimacy of party rule. He said big, high-level corruption cases had continued apace since the outline was released in 2005, while the amounts of bribes involved had skyrocketed.

Fighting corruption was the focus of the first speech by Xi Jinping , after he was appointed party chief in November. Outgoing Premier Wen Jiabao , also said at the opening of the annual session of the National People's Congress on Tuesday that the government should "unwaveringly combat corruption and establish institutions to end the excessive concentration of power and the lack of checks on power".

But many political observers and academics say that even if an anti-corruption law is enacted, it may prove ineffective because of difficulties in enforcing it. Han Kang , a former vice-president of the State Council's Chinese Academy of Governance and a CPPCC delegate, said the mainland had a history of passing laws that were not enforced.

"People have great hope of change under the new leadership," he said. "The leaders need to demonstrate more determination to fight against corruption before many lose hope that their dreams will ever be realised."