Time to publicly disclose officials' assets
Updated: 2012-12-06 14:36
BEIJING - Public interest in the financial status of government officials has been renewed by a series of recent scandals, with muckrackers exposing local officials' assets, from the value of their watches to how much they have spent on their mistresses.
Netizens have demonstrated the failure of the country's asset declaration system, as most government officials' assets are still kept secret from the public.
According to the current system, officials are required to report their income, real estate holdings and other wealth, but only to their superiors.
It is clear that without extensive public supervision, the asset declaration system is a tiger without teeth.
Muckrakers found that Cai Bin, a south China official nicknamed "Uncle House" by netizens, owns 22 properties. The official told his superiors that he owned only two.
If their assets is made public, officials will think twice before making false asset declarations and pocketing bribes, particularly at a time when public anger regarding corruption is widespread and vociferous.
Some Chinese officials have complained that publicly disclosing their assets would harm their privacy.
Their reluctance, however, will do nothing to stop online whistleblowers from revealing their financial status, particularly in the social media era.
Authorities in Guangdong province, where Cai was sacked, announced this week that they will launch a pilot regulation that will require local officials to disclose their assets, as well as those of their relatives, to a certain amount of people.
However, if these disclosures are not done quickly and properly, online muckrakers will do it the hard way.
During the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) held last month, Yu Zhengsheng, now a member of the Political Bureau Standing Committee of the CPC Central Committee, the Party's top decision-making body, promised to make his financial status public if required.
The newly-elected CPC leadership has made its resolution to combat corruption clear, as the CPC has warned that corruption could lead to "the collapse of the Party and the fall of the state."
Seven hundred years ago, during the Ming Dynasty, Chinese officials convicted of taking bribes were skinned alive in public. But even severe penalties like those failed to deter greedy and reckless officials; the "national disease" of corruption contributed significantly to the fall of the dynasty.
Having tried out different remedies, China is just one step away from a cure that has been proven effective in countries the world over: the public disclosure of government officials' assets.
Such disclosures are a critical step in the country's fight against corruption and must be implemented.
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