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Halting The Great Cadre Escape
Summary:The CCDI will pilot a mechanism for better coordination among provinces when it comes to tracking down lower-level officials who attempt to flee the country. In the past this work has usually been left to central authorities, but as the number of lower-level officials who have fled begins to rise, these agencies haven't been able to keep up.

By Chen Yong (陈勇) and Qiao Yafei (乔亚飞)
June 3, 2013
News, page 1
Translated by Yu Menglu
Original article: [Chinese]

On May 27, the Chinese Communist Party's internal anti-corruption agency released a notification requiring all staff to return any membership cards that they had obtained by June 20. This is the first time in 20 years that the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) has launched an anti-corruption campaign aimed at its own members.

An official from the discipline inspection commission, who was unwilling to reveal his name, told the EO that this internal focus was aimed at ensuring the integrity of the inspection system and also at preventing more officials from fleeing abroad.

According to an earlier report by the EO, over 1,100 officials failed to return from abroad over recent years, 714 of them were confirmed as fleeing officials.

Counting Fleeing Officials

As of 2012, there were still no official figures on how many corrupt officials had not returned from overseas or how much money had been illegally transferred abroad.

According to details revealed at an official conference devoted to the topic of preventing corrupt officials from fleeing abroad held in Beijing in May 2011, from the end of 2000 to 2011, supervisory agencies had detained 18,487 officials suspected of corruption who had tried to flee.

Work reports published by China's Supreme People's Procuratorate over recent years also reveal that the number of officials detained after attempting to flee the country had risen dramatically since 2007. The amount of money involved quadrupled from 24.5 billion yuan in 2008 to 102 billion yuan in 2012.

Another report published by the former head of the Supreme People's Court in 2009 quoted official figures suggesting that in the 15 years from 1988 to 2002, over $191 billion had been siphoned off abroad, an average of almost $13 billion a year.  

The EO sought to confirm these figures with both the CCDI and the National Bureau of Corruption Prevention. A spokesperson from the office of the CCDI told the EO that for data on the number of officials that have fled abroad, we should refer to statements made by Ma Wen (马馼), the deputy party secretary of CCDI, minister of Ministry of Supervision and Director of National Bureau of Corruption Prevention.

The spokesperson also told the EO that the CCDI is currently conducting an internal investigation and also implementing changes to its internal structure. Once these changes have been completed, the results will be released to the public before the end of June.

Closing the Net

For the past 10 years the CPC Central Committee has been dispatching inspection teams across the country to conduct annual spot checks of party officials in particular regions, state-owned companies and other institutions.

This year the inspection teams are heading to Jiangxi province, Guizhou province, Chongqing municipality, Hubei Province and the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. Inspectors will also visit the China Grain Reserve Corporation, the Ministry of Water Resources, the Export-Import Bank of China, China Publishing Group and Renmin University of China.

However, this year's inspections are going to be a bit different from those conducted in the past. The CCDI recently announced that in the future, the inspection teams will narrow the scope of their investigations and focus on uncovering illegal behavior or other violations. Meanwhile, in order to strengthen the effectiveness of their work, they will now also be given the authority to conduct random inspections of high-level officials too.

Changes have also been made to the way the inspection teams are staffed. The leader of an inspection team will no longer be appointed to this "position" but rather assigned the "task" of carrying out this one-time investigation.

It was revealed to the EO by a person close to CCDI that "due to the seriousness of the situation in relation to fleeing officials, the reforms to the inspection process are also a sign of the need to clearly establish some basic facts about government officials in order to effectively prevent them from fleeing abroad."

In addition to reforming the way that annual inspections are conducted, the CCDI is also looking to pilot a mechanism that will allow for better coordination among provinces when it comes to tracking down lower-level officials who attempt to flee the country. In the past this work has usually been left to central authorities, but as the number of lower-level officials who have fled begins to rise, these agencies haven't been able to keep up.

Ten provinces have already begun to develop such provincial-level mechanisms aimed at better coordinating their efforts to prevent officials fleeing the country.

In 2005 and 2007, the Communist Party's Central Anti-corruption Coordination Group (中央反腐败协调小组) set up an office charged with preventing errant officials from leaving the country and also a team to make arrests abroad. An office tasked with tracking corrupt officials that had left the country was also established under the National Bureau of Corruption Prevention (国家预防腐败局). This office is in charge of overseeing international cooperation and assistance for anti-corruption efforts.

According to incomplete statistics, China signed 108 legal assistance treaties with 70 countries and joined 25 international multilateral treaties of judicial assistance in the years since 2002. Currently, more than 160 countries and international organizations have agreed to provide China with assistance when it comes to apprehending and repatriating criminals.

Number of Officials Fleeing Continues to Rise

Up until now, the Communist Party only really considered officials above deputy provincial level (副省级) as high-level party members who made up a pool of elite personnel that could be drawn on by the party. This meant that the Ministry of Supervision and the CCDI, the government and party arms of China's joint anti-corruption agency, along with the Communist Party's Organization Department focused their attention on supervising and maintaining files on this group of officials

On January 31 every year, officials of provincial and departmental level have to report certain basic information about themselves and their family to the relevant departments.
Officials have to disclose details about their health and the work and salaries of their family members. Even senior officials who have retired are required to submit these forms. From 2011, senior officials whose spouse or child had gone abroad were required to fill additional forms. Officials that submitted these additional forms would be subjected to special treatment if they came up for promotion or were to come into contact with state secrets.

In January 2005, the State Administration of Foreign Exchange, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Public Security, Ministry of Supervision and the Justice Ministry announced that they would cooperate on a project aimed at supervising the transfer of assets abroad by government officials and their relatives.

The CCDI also piloted a scheme that required government and CPC officials as well as directors of state-owned enterprises to report if their direct relatives were living or studying abroad.

Last year smart chips containing basic information such as name, gender, date of birth and signature also began to be inserted into the new passports of civil servants.

Improving Prevention and Punishment

However, for a long time, there was no effective mechanism for preventing corrupt officials from fleeing abroad or for tracking down those who made it overseas.

In some areas, when officials were discovered to have left the country, the first official reaction was to not release any details and to try and keep the whole case under wraps.

According to Li Yongzhong (李永忠), vice president of China's Discipline Inspection and Supervision Institute (中国纪检监察学院), now China is in talks with the relevant departments in the U.S. about how to repatriate corrupt officials that have fled to America. Li said that the U.S. has promised to repatriate them if China can prove their corruption.

"In the future, preventing officials from fleeing and going after those who have made it abroad will be the priority of the CCDI," an inspection official from Western China told the EO.

"Banning VIP cards, on the one hand, reflects the corruption problems in discipline inspection and supervision system, and at the same time, it reveals that there are problems with both preventing officials from fleeing and tracking down those who already have," said Qiao Xinsheng (乔新生), director of Clean Government Research Institute (廉政研究院) of Zhongnan University of Economics and Law.

Hu Rongping (胡蓉萍) and Shen Nianzu (沈念祖) also contributed to this report.


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