The Private Lives of Local Officials to Play a Role in Promotions

By Tang Xiangyang
Published: 2010-09-10

“He never stays out all night and calls me every time he has to work overtime. He cares about me a lot.”

Deng Xiaotian’s wife wrote these words to the department of organization of the local CPC committee when the commerce bureau of Shaoyang County in Hunan Province considered promoting Deng to deputy director.

The local government now requires family members to rate the private morals of local officials, on a scale that goes from “unqualified” up to “excellent.”

Shaoyang County is not alone.

Many local governments are issuing new standards to evaluate potential employees that focus on “personal ethics.”

As early as April, the Pixian County of Sichuan Province began judging the ethical performance of local officials and their relationships with relatives and neighbors. Before offering a promotion to a public servant, the local government interviews his family, neighbors, coworkers, and even security guards.

In Jiangsu Province’s Muyang County, the local government is considering “marital fidelity” as criteria for evaluating the performance of local officials. In surrounding counties, local officials willing to support their parents are looked upon favorably for promotions.

Although no one knows whether these new standards will play a role in lifting the moral standards of Chinese officials, but they are food for thought.

“My feelings about the new standards are mixed. It indicates that that some of our officials have extremely low moral standards,” said Yang Jianshun, a professor from the Renmin University Law School to a reporter from Legal Daily.

Deng Xiaotian has been graded “excellent” by his wife.

But the grade looks suspicious.

“How is it possible for a deputy director of a commerce bureau to ‘never stay out all night’? Doesn’t he have to go on business trips and work overtime?” the head of the local human resource department told the reporter above.

“This evaluation system is too simple to be effective,” he added.

In a recent article about the new standards being used, People’s Daily Online asks, “Why would a wife interfere with the promotion of her husband when she will surely benefit from it?

There are other doubts about the new standards

In the past, Chinese officials had to be judged by a review board before they could get promoted.

Aside from relying on ethic reports from family members, many local governments are inviting experts to establish an ethics evaluation system that takes into account the opinions of colleagues and community members.

Some other local governments hold a secret ballot before granting a promotion. Those who have failed to win support from at least 50 percent of voters will not get a promotion. After a one-year probation period, if they still fail to garner 50% of the vote, they will be removed from their positions.

Yang Jianshun says that performance evaluations should be determined scientifically rather than subjectively.

“There is nothing new in these ‘new standards’. Community security guards and workers, families and neighbors are not necessarily qualified judges. Some officials are not familiar with the security guards and workers in their community. Additionally, such an investigation will infringe upon their privacy unless the interviewers have been legally authorized,” Yan Jianshun said.

This article was edited by Rose Scobie and Ruoji Tang

Links and Sources
Legal Daily:“官德”考评新招频出能否规范官员品行
People’s Daily:"家庭道德鉴定书”如何抵挡“贪内助”?