In China, prison tours a warning for senior officials

BEIJING (CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - China's prisons aren't just for criminals anymore. A longstanding anti-corruption campaign has used China's correctional facilities to warn officials, senior managers of state-owed enterprises, and their families of the dangers of corruption and abuse of power.

In a recent example, some 200 senior officials from the country's top economic planning body were given an up-close view of life behind bars, the CPC's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) revealed last week.

The officials, of the National Development and Reform Committee of China, were selected for holding "high-risk" positions, meaning they are more likely to be tempted to go astray.

The officials were shown life in two prisons, one in Beijing and the other in Hebei province. The visitors heard stories from ex-officials who are now incarcerated, many of whom explained how they went wrong and the suffering they caused their families.

In China, prisons have become a popular anti-corruption tool. In April, the Ministry of Industry and Information took some of its personnel to a prison in Hebei province.

Similar tours have been arranged by some local governments and state-owned enterprises since the Communist Party's 18th Party Congress in 2012. In some cases, officials' family members are also taken along.

Nearly 340,000 officials have visited Beijing Prison since the anti-corruption educational tours began in 2008, according to an article published by CCDI last August. Officials quoted by the CCDI have described the visit as a vivid lesson, reminding them to keep a cool head and resist corruption.

Still, some officials are clearly not deterred by a glimpse of "the inside". Chen Xinxiang, head of a state-owned investment and construction company in central China's Hubei province, was sacked and put under investigation for suspected disciplinary violation on July 18, less than one month after his trip to a local prison.