Updated: 2013-01-25 07:25
Although no details have been disclosed about the new leadership's five-year anti-corruption plan (2013-17), the recent vow made by its top disciplinary watchdog to conduct spot checks on officials' assets is a forcible step forward and inspires the hope that some potent follow-up measures are in the offing.
At the watchdog's plenary session on Monday, the second since it was elected in November, Wang Qishan, its new leader, said officials should report the required personal information, including their assets, to anti-graft bodies, and the authorities will conduct spot checks to verify the truthfulness of their asset declarations.
This is a step toward the long-anticipated systematized disclosure of officials' assets, a move that would help effectively prevent corruption. A recent series of corruption cases involving the possession of multiple properties by some local officials are evidence of the need for a comprehensive and binding national system for the disclosure of officials' assets.
That Gong Aiai, a former deputy chief of a rural commercial bank in Shaanxi province, reportedly possesses dozens of luxury properties in Beijing and other cities under four identity cards and four hukou, or household registrations, also indicates the existence of a huge systematic loophole in the disclosure of officials' asset information.
An asset reporting system for officials was first put forward in 1987, but it has not been effectively implemented because it has stopped short of being legally binding. Some local governments' attempts have failed to achieve substantial progress due to strong opposition from officials and the absence of an independent and powerful supervisory mechanism to ensure its enforcement in a trustworthy manner.
At the top anti-graft body's plenary session, new Party chief Xi Jinping said that "power should be restricted by the cage of regulations" and called for the establishment of "a disciplinary, prevention and guarantee mechanism" to fight the abuse of power. Undoubtedly, a well-designed assets disclosure system targeted at officials should be part of a cage of this kind.
The lack of advancement in reporting officials' assets at the local level indicates that a top-level system is badly needed. The spot checks on officials' assets are an overdue but positive step toward this goal, although it is not the same as the systematic and all-inclusive disclosure of assets by officials.