China offers incentives for criminals overseas to give themselves up

BEIJING (REUTERS) - Corrupt Chinese officials who have fled abroad are being offered reduced sentences and other incentives to give themselves up and return home, state media said on Friday, as the government continues its sweeping campaign against deep-seated graft.

Beijing has long grappled with the issue of so-called "naked officials" - government workers whose husbands, wives or children are all overseas - who use foreign family connections to illegally shift assets out of China or to avoid investigation.

Some estimates put the number of Chinese officials and family members moving assets offshore at more than 1 million in the past five years.

Earlier this year, the government announced a "fox hunt" to root out such officials, whom Beijing often cannot get back from Western countries due to a lack of extradition treaties and concerns about torture and capital punishment.

Announcing the latest effort to go after these people, the official Xinhua news agency said that if they handed themselves in they would be treated more leniently.

Until Dec 1, such people can report themselves to Chinese embassies, "confess their crimes accurately and voluntarily return" and then be eligible for reduced sentences, or even get off entirely if their crime is not judged to be serious, Xinhua said.

It did not explain why such "economic criminals" might want to willingly return to China to face punishment, albeit a light one.

The fox hunt had so far netted 128 people who had returned from more than 40 countries, the report added.

President Xi Jinping has made fighting pervasive graft a central theme and has warned, like others before him, that corruption threatens the ruling Communist Party's survival.