China's graft watchdog drops euphemisms and uses 'adultery' as charge against officials
Instead of vague terms about corrupt lifestyle, graft-busters are accusing wayward officials of adultery, which resonates more with people
"Adultery" appears to have replaced "corrupt lifestyle" and "morally degenerate" in the lexicon of graft-busters.
Some researchers said the word - plain, easy to understand and laden with emotion for most people - suggested that the party authorities were hoping to invoke judgment by the public.
"Adultery" entered the lexicon of the Communist Party's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection when it announced in June that Dai Chunning , the former vice-president of China Export & Credit Insurance Corporation, had been expelled from the party for suspected corruption.
Party authorities used to describe extra-marital affairs with the words "morally degenerate", "decadent lifestyle" or "having improper relationships with women".
In the high-profile cases of Bo Xilai, the former Chongqing party boss, and his right-hand man, Wang Lijun, authorities used the more damming: "keeping or having improper sexual relationships with several women".
Xu Jie, deputy chief of the State Bureau for Letters and Calls which handles petitions, was sacked for "adultery" last week.
The CCDI announced on Wednesday that seven more state and local officials had been kicked out of the party for suspected graft. Five were accused of adultery, including three who were former aides of retired security tsar Zhou Yongkang .
By dropping the euphemisms for extramarital affairs, the CCDI was trying to appeal to the morality of the people, some researchers said.
"Officials accused of adultery would face moral condemnation from the public, since adultery is a much stronger accusation than 'morally degenerate'," said Peng Peng , a researcher at the Guangzhou Academy of Social Sciences.
Zhang Lifan, a Beijing-based political commentator, said the shift in wording was a political ploy aimed at stigmatising the sacked officials.
"The word 'adultery' is rather demeaning. Using 'adultery' for 'extramarital affairs' makes it easier for the public to buy the idea" the officials deserve tough punishment, Zhang said.
Veteran China watcher Johnny Lau Yui-siu, who is based in Hong Kong, understood the change in wording as the CCDI's attempt to clarify that the anti-graft campaign was aimed at corruption, and not the new leadership's rivals in the party.
"Given the widely circulated rumours that Xi Jinping's war against corruption was targetting his rivals, the CCDI needs an accusation much more specific than 'violation of party discipline' to convince the public the sacked official is not a scapegoat of power infighting," Lau said.
Adultery does not constitute a crime under China's criminal law. But Article 150 of the party's discipline codes state that adulterous party members face expulsion and being sacked from their official posts.