Xi's vow: No let-up in anti-graft drive

Chinese President Xi Jinping speaking at the World Climate Change Conference 2015 in France on Nov 30.
Chinese President Xi Jinping speaking at the World Climate Change Conference 2015 in France on Nov 30. PHOTO: REUTERS

Chinese leader says efforts will be expanded this year to hunt down 'economic fugitives'

BEIJING • Chinese President Xi Jinping said his signature anti-corruption campaign will not be eased and that he is determined this year to make China a place where "nobody dares to be corrupt".

The anti-graft effort this year will expand efforts to hunt down so-called "economic fugitives" who have fled overseas, said the official Xinhua news agency, citing Mr Xi's speech at the start of a three-day meeting of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI).

After snaring about 100 high-ranking "tigers" and thousands of other mid-level officials, the campaign will focus more on corruption at the local level this year, he said.

"The Communist Party central leadership's firm determination to fight corruption has not changed; the goal of preventing corruption from spreading has not changed," Mr Xi said.

He had warned soon after taking power in late 2012 that corruption threatened the legitimacy of the ruling Communist Party and launched a campaign to stamp out graft at all levels of Chinese society.

The campaign has targeted government officials, state-owned enterprises and the military. Last year, 26 "tigers", referring to officials at the vice-ministerial level or above, were put under investigation for alleged corruption, according to Xinhua.

Among the so-called tigers felled were Zhou Yongkang, the former security chief who was sentenced to life in prison last June; Ling Jihua, a former top aide of Mr Xi's predecessor Hu Jintao; and two former deputy commanders-in-chief of the People's Liberation Army, Xu Caihou and Guo Boxiong.

"The anti-corruption campaign has increased the people's confidence in and support of the party, and has been highly appraised by them," Mr Xi said.

Since the anti-corruption campaign began, the party has tackled the issue of being too lenient in supervising its members, and has tried building a system where officials "do not dare, are not able and are unwilling to be corrupt", he added. Those efforts are starting to pay off, with an atmosphere forming where officials are "unable and unwilling to engage in corruption", he said.

In the overseas hunt for corruption suspects, an initiative dubbed "Skynet" that was launched in April last year, more than 1,000 economic fugitives residing in 68 countries have been brought back to China, Xinhua said.

A new round of Skynet will be launched this year that will rely on increased judicial cooperation with other countries, said the CCDI.

Some analysts have raised concerns that the ongoing anti-graft drive is contributing to already meagre investment growth in China over the past year, as certain officials are afraid to approve projects for fear of corruption accusations.

Mr Xi repeated previous orders for officials to "highlight honesty while managing their families", a reference to the common problem of family members also getting caught up in corruption probes.

BLOOMBERG, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 14, 2016, with the headline 'Xi's vow: No let-up in anti-graft drive'. Print Edition | Subscribe