China vows to remove 'tumours' from justice system in graft purge

The move sets the stage for another anti-corruption push under President Xi Jinping. PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (BLOOMBERG) - China's top law enforcement body announced a campaign to "thoroughly remove tumours" from the country's justice system, pointing to a fresh corruption purge by President Xi Jinping.

The nationwide "education and rectification" campaign was rolled out Wednesday (July 8) by the Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission, the Communist Party body that oversees the country's police, prosecutors and courts.

Mr Chen Yixin, the commission's secretary-general, told a meeting in Beijing that the effort was an "urgent and significant" political task, comparing it to cancer surgery and "scraping poison off of one's bones," according to an article posted on the commission's website.

The move sets the stage for another anti-corruption push under Mr Xi, who cemented his authority over the ruling party with an unprecedented years-long campaign to shame, oust and punish officials. The effort has ensnared more than 3 million cadres as of January, including the Zhou Yongkang, the former head of the powerful legal affairs commission.

The effort comes even as the Chinese leadership leans on law enforcement to crack down on political threats in the wake of the pandemic and its economic fallout.

The official Legal Daily reported earlier this week that a special working group on political security was added to a law enforcement task force established in April to defuse any social unrest stemming from the government's response to the virus.

China's opaque and party-controlled justice system has come under new international scrutiny after Beijing handed down legislation last month for the first time allowing national security offences in the former British colony of Hong Kong to be prosecuted in mainland courts.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman also suggested that Canada could help two of its citizens under indictment for national security offence by stopping extradition proceedings against Huawei Technologies Co executive Meng Wanzhou.

Mr Chen compared the campaign to the Yanan Rectification Movement, a political purge credited with consolidating the late Mao Zedong's paramount position in the party more than 75 years ago.

The effort would begin with pilot projects in five cities and four counties, expanded nationwide in 2021 and end in 2022, the year when Mr Xi's current term as party leader is expected to expire.

The campaign follows the April announcement of a graft investigation into former Vice Public Security Minister Sun Lijun. In January, Meng Hongwei, who was the first Chinese head of Interpol and another former vice public security minister, was sentenced to 13.5 years in prison for taking bribes.

The commission will target "two-faced" officials and seek to ensure the justice system is "absolutely loyal and reliable,"Mr Chen said. Authorities would also seek to punish those who protect criminals, intervene in the judicial processes, illegally reduce prison terms or seek benefits for relatives, he said.

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