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New anti-graft body to strengthen oversight

By Zhang Yan | China Daily | Updated: 2018-03-13 07:29

Pilot programs extended nationwide to combat corruption, as Zhang Yan reports.

"We had no precedent to follow and no experience to draw on. We have been the icebreakers and we made it," said Jin Xiaodong, head of the supervision commission of Shangcheng district in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, talking about the first case of detention the commission handled.

In March last year, a month after the commission was established as part of a district-level pilot, Jin started working on its first case. The subject was Yu Jianjun, a civil servant suspected of abuse of power and embezzling public funds which he used to repay debts, buy luxury goods and gamble.

Yu isn't a member of the Communist Party of China, so he was not monitored by the Party's disciplinary authorities. Instead, he was under the supervision of Jin's team, as a result of ongoing reform which has seen the supervisory commission's role expanded to cover all public servants.

After careful investigations into Yu's activities, Jin's team issued the commission's first detention order. Without detailed detention procedures or legal instruments for reference, they overcame many difficulties to conduct the investigation and collect evidence.

"It took 33 days to complete the investigation and transfer Yu to the Shangcheng district people's procuratorate so judicial proceedings could start. Everything was done with maximum efficiency," Jin said.

Mao Mingxiu, deputy director of the Shangcheng supervisory commission, said that during the detention period, the inspectors were careful to protect Yu's rights, and made synchronized video and audio recordings whenever he was formally questioned.

In December, Yu was convicted of corruption at Hangzhou Intermediate People's Court. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison and fined 2 million yuan ($316,000).

Yu was the first corruption suspect to be detained by the Shangcheng supervision commission since a pilot program was launched in 2016.

On Tuesday, the National People's Congress, the top legislature, is scheduled to deliberate a draft supervision law designed to lay a legal foundation for an upgraded anti-graft task force. If the law is adopted, a new supervisory network will be established, consisting of supervisory commissions at the national, provincial, city and county levels, all with legally defined duties, liabilities and protocols.

"The new supervision law and anti-graft system will lay a solid foundation for the country to achieve an overwhelming victory in the fight against corruption," said Ma Huaide, vice-president of China University of Political Science and Law.

Momentum

Since late 2012, when Xi Jinping became general secretary of the CPC Central Committee and head of the military, the fight against corruption has been a top priority nationwide and a crushing momentum has been formed against graft.

When he delivered a report to the 19th CPC National Congress in October, Xi said new supervisory commissions would be established at different levels across the country to provide in-depth inspections of all public servants.

According to Ma, the main reason for establishing the commissions - which will share offices and staff members with CPC disciplinary inspectors - was to enhance the Party's unified leadership over anti-corruption campaigns and cover all State functionaries.

The commissions will integrate the existing supervisory, corruption prevention and control agencies within local governments and procuratorates to form a centralized, unified force to combat graft.

"As a unified anti-graft agency under the Party's leadership, the supervisory commission system is an institutional invention incorporating China's reality and international practice," Ma said. "It pools supervisory powers that used to be divided, and forms a centralized, unified and efficient State supervision system."

Gao Bo, a senior official with the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, said that when all the supervision commissions are in place, every public servant will come under effective surveillance. He added that such an extensive network "expands inspection to all public servants, leaves no loopholes and serves as a powerful deterrent against corruption".

Pilot reforms

Although the legal and institutional building of the new system is ongoing nationally, pilots at local levels have achieved notable progress.

Since November, pilot reforms of the supervisory system in Beijing and the provinces of Shanxi and Zhejiang have been expanded nationwide.

Moreover, directors of provincial-level supervisory commissions were elected at the recently concluded annual legislative sessions of provincial-level people's congresses.

New commissions place civil servants, police officers, the prosecuting authorities and the courts, executives at State-owned enterprises and senior members of staff at public institutions and organizations under a single supervisory network.

In Beijing, the number of officials under supervision rose from 210,000 before the reform to 997,000 by December, according to Zhang Shuofu, head of the city's supervisory commission.

Meanwhile, Ren Jianhua, head of the Shanxi Provincial Supervisory Commission, said the northern province has seen a 67.5 percent rise in the number of officials under effective supervision, and only about 18 percent of them are not CPC members.

The reform provides more institutional advantages by unifying the Party and State supervisory systems.

Under the pilot reform, about 770 officials who worked for anti-corruption departments at the Beijing Municipal Procuratorate have been transferred to the municipal supervisory commission. Instead of adding a new unit to the commission, the officials were assigned to a number of units to work with disciplinary inspectors.

"They were assigned to different posts according to their skills. We hope their experience in the judicial agencies can complement the advantages of Party disciplinary inspectors," said Liu Yongqiang, a senior official with the Beijing Municipal Supervisory Commission.

Zhejiang has also achieved great progress in curbing corruption.

"Under the reform, we've established a unified and authoritative anti-graft command-and-decision-making system, which will enable us to centralize resources and greatly improve work efficiency," said Liu Jianchao, head of the Zhejiang Provincial Supervisory Commission.

According to Liu Jianchao, under the new commissions, by December, the number of officials and public servants under supervision rose from 383,000 to 700,000. Between January and October, inspectors in Zhejiang received more than 500 tips related to graft, a rise of 77 percent from the same period in 2016.

New detention system

The reform not only gives graft-busters more powers, but also regulates that power. The draft supervision law introduces a new detention system designed to replace shuanggui, an intra-Party disciplinary practice exercised by CPC disciplinary officials in which members under investigation must make themselves available for questioning at a set time and place.

Clear protocols have been introduced to better protect the personal and property rights of those under investigation, including a three-month limit on detention, which can be doubled under special circumstances, and a detainee's family must be notified within 24 hours.

"We're very cautious when using this power," said Liu Yongqiang of the Beijing Municipal Supervisory Commission, adding that strict procedures relating to detention have been established. In several cases, district supervisory commissions in Beijing have tried to complete investigations without detaining suspects.

Liu Jianchao, from the Zhejiang Provincial Supervisory Commission, said detention is considered the most important and powerful investigative measure under the supervision law.

By the end of last month, supervision officers in Zhejiang had detained 266 suspects, most of whom had been transferred to prosecuting departments to be charged.

Liu said the mechanism will be further improved, and coordination and cooperation with judicial authorities, such as prosecuting departments, will be enhanced to ensure that those charged face trial promptly.

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