China's Two Sessions 2018
Get more with myNEWS
A personalised news feed of stories that matter to you
Learn more
President Xi Jinping reads a report at the annual meeting of the National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Thursday. Photo: Reuters

Revealed: the far-reaching powers of China’s new super anticorruption agency

National Supervisory Commission ranks higher than Supreme People’s Court and top prosecutors’ office

Management teams at research institutes, public hospitals and schools as well as village officials will all come under the scrutiny of China’s new anti-corruption agency.

Details of the National Supervisory Commission’s (NSC) proposed operations emerged in a supervision law bill presented for discussion at the National People’s Congress on Tuesday, the day after the agency’s creation.

According to the bill, the new agency, ranked alongside the central government and above the judiciary, will monitor misconduct not only among the Communist Party’s 90 million members but also among managers of state-owned enterprises, hospitals, educational and cultural institutions, sports organisations and even village governments and research institutes.

The new agency will replace the party’s feared Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) as the champion of President Xi Jinping’s sweeping anti-graft campaign, with its powers expanded but also more clearly defined.

The CCDI, the party’s top anti-corruption body, can already question and detain party members without charge. The new commission will have the same powers but they will be extended to cover all public servants and village officials.

NPC vice-chairman Li Jianguo told the lawmakers meeting in Beijing that the supervision bill – the proposed law defining the NSC’s long reach – aimed to “enhance the party’s leadership in anticorruption campaigns”. 

“In the face of a tough and complex situation, our existing supervisory institutions were clearly unable to meet the demands of the battle against corruption and the campaign to clean up the party,” Li said.

He said that combining the graft investigation roles of the party, supervision ministry and procuratorate would cut down on overlaps, given that 80 per cent of civil servants and 95 per cent of senior officials were party members.

There had been speculation that doctors and teachers would also fall under the NSC’s gaze but the draft released on Tuesday says the law would only affect their managers.

The bill would empower the new agency to interrogate and detain suspects, freeze their assets and search their premises.

It also spells out the practice of liuzhi, or detention for interrogation, saying it would apply to those who offered bribes – in the past often only those who took them were affected because those giving the inducements may not have been party members.The proposed law would allow for the detention of both bribers and bribe-takers at the same time.

Detainees would also be denied access to a lawyer, despite concerns among the legal community and analysts about potential abuses of power.

Deputies at the annual meeting of the National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Thursday. Photo: Xinhua

Liuzhi is the NSC’s equivalent of the CCDI’s controversial measure known as shuanggui, under which the party’s graft watchdog can detain a person for up to six months without charge.

The six-month provision would remain under the NSC but procuratorates would be able to decide whether to drop a case transferred to them from the commission. An earlier draft proposed that procuratorates would need the commission’s approval to abandon prosecution. 

In addition, investigators would be held to account if they illegally banned a person from leaving the country – an apparent response to Beijing’s ramped up efforts to stop fugitives from fleeing China. 

The bill will be put to a vote on March 20, the last day of the NPC session.

The NSC was included in the constitution on Sunday and ranks higher than the Supreme People’s Court and the top prosecutors’ office.

On Saturday, CCDI deputy secretary Xiao Pei said the bill would boost the legitimacy of Xi’s anti-corruption campaign. 

“It will definitely give anti-graft work a legal and standardised basis,” Xinhua quoted Xiao as saying. “It will also add to people’s confidence and trust in the party, and consolidate the foundation of the party’s rule.”

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Presence of proposed anti-corruption agency to be felt even at village level Presence of anti-graft body to be felt by all