PRESIDENT Jiang Zemin opened the seventh International Anti-Corruption Conference in Beijing yesterday with a pledge to make all leading Chinese officials 'clean and honest' in performing their duties. Corruption was a 'disease infecting an otherwise healthy society', and as such it was 'imperative to persist in the struggle against corruption if we are to safeguard social stability', President Jiang told the conference at the Great Hall of the People. Mr Jiang noted that China was 'soberly aware of the serious consequences of corruption among people performing official duties', but neither he nor any of the subsequent speakers at the opening session mentioned by name any of the unusually high-profile corruption cases that have dogged the party and Government this year. The suicide of Beijing's deputy mayor, Wang Baosen, after his implication in a corruption scandal, and the subsequent arrest of his boss, Chen Xitong, on similar charges were not on the agenda. The keynote speaker, Procurator-General Zhang Siqing, only hinted at the recent scandals by saying the party had 'remarkable success in uncovering a small number of fairly well-hidden cases of corruption'. 'Past events have shown the Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese Government are fully capable of weeding out corruption,' Mr Zhang said. However, several overseas delegates attending yesterday's opening ceremony thought the official speeches rang hollow. 'The speeches sound very nice, but our experience is that it is very difficult, if not impossible, for a government or ruling body to police itself,' said a European delegate. 'You need a wholly independent judiciary and procuratorate to police the leaders and I don't think that is the case here,' he said. A second European delegate pointed out that simply dismissing senior officials, as in the case of Chen, was not an effective measure in the fight against corruption. 'As far as I understand the situation, this Mr Chen may just go into quiet retirement - this is not a good signal to send to people.' Despite the reticence of officials about dwelling on the scandals that have rocked Beijing for the past half year, there was no escaping the legacy of Chen and Wang. As one observer said yesterday: 'You can almost see the ghost of Wang Baosen floating above the hall laughing to himself.'