Xi Jinping's anti-graft campaign

China’s elite engineering club writes anti-corruption measure into new charter

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 12 June, 2014, 5:27pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 17 September, 2014, 6:07pm

The mainland’s most prestigious engineering association has barred universities and other enterprises from nominating members – months after a railways ministry official admitted paying multimillions in bribes to get into the club.

The Chinese Academy of Engineering’s (CAE) new policy was approved during its annual gathering and was written in its new charter yesterday, the Beijing Times reports.

The academy said the move was to reduce corruption and increase academic independence, without citing specific cases.

Membership in the CAE is much sought after because of its stature and reputation for gathering top-notch engineering scientists.

Its members often have been consulted by the government on major projects – including nuclear power plants and high-speed railways. Their opinions can sometimes make or break a multibillion-yuan proposal.

Entry into the club reflects well not just on a member but his employer.

However, there had for years been suspicion and criticisms that there was corruption in its ranks, and reforms had been slow.

The association came under stronger pressure to reform after two railways officials implicated in the CAE bribery case were convicted.

Last year, Zhang Shuguang, a former chief engineer at the now-defunct Ministry of Railways, confessed in court that the ministry spent more than 23 million yuan (HK$29 million) to get elected into the CAE.

Zhang was not elected in the end, but many academy members voted for him, according to mainland media reports.

Zhang was seen as the second in command to former railways minister Liu Zhijun, the father of China’s high-speed rail network. Liu was sentenced to death, with a suspension of two years, for corruption.

Preventing universities and enterprises from meddling in the election process is a positive first step, a CAE member told the Beijing Times.

"Enterprises are no longer allowed to nominate a candidate, not even universities," the member was quoted by the newspaper as saying. "This is the biggest change … [that] can prevent corruption."