Woman on China's most-wanted list for corruption returns from Australia

BEIJING (REUTERS) - A woman on China's list of 100 most wanted corruption suspects abroad has voluntarily returned to China from Australia, the government said, while Beijing also announced a new list of departments to be visited by graft inspectors.

China has been trying to get increased international cooperation to hunt down suspected corrupt officials who have fled overseas since President Xi Jinping began a war against deeply rooted graft more than three years ago.

Western countries, however, have been reluctant to help, or to sign extradition treaties, not wanting to send people back to a country where rights groups say mistreatment of criminal suspects remains a problem. They also complain China is unwilling to provide proof of their crimes.

China has instead turned to persuasion to get people back from countries like Canada and the United States, where many graft suspects have gone.

Beijing's graft-fighting Central Commission for Discipline Inspection said in a brief statement late on Wednesday that Tang Gongmei had "surrendered" and returned to China from Australia, where she fled to in 2008.

Tang, 56, was an accountant at an arts and crafts trading company in the south-eastern province of Fujian and is wanted for corruption, the watchdog said. It gave no details on the exact crimes she is suspected of or how she came to give herself up.

It was not possible to reach her for comment and unclear if she has been allowed to retain a lawyer in China.

The government unveiled an initiative called "Sky Net" last year to coordinate its fight to return corrupt officials and published the list of suspects subject to an Interpol "red notice" - the closest instrument to an international arrest warrant.

The graft watchdog also said China's next round of anti-corruption inspections would focus on 32 bodies, including the country's largely rubber stamp parliament, and the public security, foreign and finance ministries.

The Housing Ministry, National Audit Office, the Communist Party's international department and a party group that handles the fight against what the government calls cults would also be inspected, it said.

Anti-graft teams have fanned out across China in the past three years, although few details have emerged of wrongdoing that has been uncovered.