Legal conundrum over sexual bribery

Updated: 2013-07-18 09:47

By Luo Wangshu in Chongqing and Cao Yin in Beijing (China Daily)

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Tip of the iceberg

Cases such as those involving Lei and Liu are simply the tip of an iceberg and many officials are embroiled in similar activities. On a wider scale, just as government officials accept sexual favors as bribes, improper behavior is also rife in the world of business, Yang said.

The problem is that under current Chinese criminal law, there is no accurate definition of sexual bribery, let alone any means of identifying or punishing it, Yang said.

"Therefore, it's the right time to regard the provision of sexual services as a form of bribery and the definition of corruption should be widened to include this as soon as possible," he said, adding that he has been calling for the law to be revised for a number of years.

Yang's remarks sparked discussion among legal professionals, and a number of anti-corruption experts and law officers have voiced concern over a problem that appears to be becoming increasingly widespread. They also emphasized the difficulties faced by those charged with revising the law.

Sexual bribery is not a new phenomenon; it even exists in Chinese legend. Three of the fabled "Four Beauties" of ancient Chinese myth can be classified as sex bribes. One of the three, Xi Shi, for example, was gift from a defeated nation to its conquerors, while another, Diao Chan, was given away to two powerful men, a father and his adopted son. Diao eventually provoked a conflict within the family that resulted in the son murdering the father.

According to Chinese criminal law, the charge of bribery is concerned purely with financial reward. That means officials found to have accepted bribes of a sexual nature are dealt with by a disciplinary committee and not a criminal court.

As a result, both Liu and Lei were convicted of accepting monetary bribes, but neither was punished on counts of sexual bribery.

In the case of Liu, Beijing No 2 Intermediate Court said the former minister exploited his position to provide help to 11 people, including Ding Yuxin, board chairwoman of Boyou Investment Management Corp, and her relatives, to gain promotion and win lucrative contracts, all of which resulted in financial gain.

Legal conundrum over sexual bribery

Although Internet observers claimed Ding, in return, provided Liu with women, the allegations were not confirmed by the court.

Liu Tienan, former vice-minister of the National Development and Reform Commission, was sacked in May after his former mistress provided a journalist with vital information about his corrupt practices - including accepting bribes, falsely claiming to hold universities degrees and leading an improper lifestyle.

Meanwhile, Sun Dejiang, a former lawmaker from Northeast China's Heilongjiang province, was arrested in January on charges of embezzling public funds, defrauding pension funds and conducting "improper relationships" with several women. He was removed from his post after a local journalist - who claimed Sun had forced her into maintaining an adulterous relationship with him - posted allegations about their relationship online.

Most of these improper lifestyles feature "brokers", usually company employees, who provide officials with prostitutes or pay for clients and officials to receive sexual services to win contracts for projects or to gain the "friendship" of the officials, in the hope of eventually reaping financial rewards.

"If we had a specific law to follow, I think the related problems could be alleviated," said Zhu Lijia, a professor at the Chinese Academy of Governance, who has long advocated including sexual bribery as an offence in the laws governing corruption.

Ren Jianming, director of the Clean Governance Research and Education Center at Beihang University, also supported calls to widen the definition of bribery with the aim of better identifying related crimes.