China seeks Asean's help in anti-graft drive

Mr Liu Jianchao with a book on law and regulations issued to Communist Party members. He was speaking to journalists from Singapore Press Holdings yesterday.
Mr Liu Jianchao with a book on law and regulations issued to Communist Party members. He was speaking to journalists from Singapore Press Holdings yesterday.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

Regional mechanism can also be used against drug trafficking and terrorism, says top official

China is seeking help from Asean to set up a regional mechanism to help it hunt down fugitives fleeing President Xi Jinping's anti-corruption drive, a top Chinese official said yesterday.

Singapore indicated that it will look at the proposals, which need further discussion.

"Corruption can go beyond borders... You cannot really succeed in fighting corruption unless you have the collaboration of other countries," Mr Liu Jianchao, Vice-Minister of the National Bureau of Corruption Prevention, told journalists from Singapore Press Holdings.

Mr Liu, who arrived here from the Philippines, will travel on to Malaysia to pursue the plan.

Mr Xi has vowed to take down corrupt officials at all levels, both "tigers and flies", since he launched the high-profile campaign in 2013.

Since then, China has captured more than 2,500 fugitives across 90 countries and regions.

Mr Xi pursued the anti-corruption subject at his recent summit with United States President Donald Trump in Florida, and the Chinese media said he elicited a promise of help from Mr Trump.

In response to media queries late last night, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) spokesman said: "The Singapore Government appreciates opportunities to share with China our experience in fighting corruption and how we have built up a culture of zero tolerance towards corruption."

It said Mr Liu's trip is a study visit and officials from both sides will need further discussion on any concrete proposals raised during the trip.

Mr Liu is visiting the Interpol Global Complex for Innovation today. He is also meeting officials from MFA and the Ministry of Law during his three-day visit.

A meeting with Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan is also on the cards.

Mr Liu said the proposed regional mechanism could be a new area in China-Asean partnership, and added that it could be used to also crack down on drug trafficking, human smuggling and terrorism.

Singapore, with its reputation as a champion of clean governance and its role as country coordinator for Asean-China dialogue relations, could help bring the idea to fruition, he said.

Mr Liu said that aside from talks on an extradition treaty, a treaty on mutual legal assistance has been mooted. Such accords would provide the legal framework for criminal suspects to be pursued and repatriated to their home country. They also have strong deterrence value, he added.

China has signed extradition treaties with 48 countries, including the Philippines, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand.

Mr Liu acknowledged that some nations had expressed concerns over China's demand for such treaties, but said they were necessary to close a loophole that allowed the "tigers and flies" to flee abroad.

More than 400 of those nabbed so far were government officials at one time, said Mr Liu, who heads the Department of International Cooperation within the Communist Party's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 12, 2017, with the headline 'China seeks Asean's help in anti-graft drive'. Print Edition | Subscribe