Last updated at: (Beijing Time) Tuesday, March 04, 2003

Supervision Vital to Killing Corruption

I was deeply moved by the story of Gu Wenchang, which was published by the People's Daily recently - I read the 10,000-word feature about him in one sitting.


I was deeply moved by the story of Gu Wenchang, which was published by the People's Daily recently - I read the 10,000-word feature about him in one sitting.

Gu, who passed away some 20 years ago, is still deeply remembered and revered today by people in Dongshan County, in East China's Fujian Province, where he had been a leading official in the 1950s and 60s.

With his hard work, perseverance and most importantly wholeheartedness to serve the people, Gu led a 14-year-long struggle against adverse natural conditions and backwardness.

Thanks to the solid foundation laid by Gu and his followers, the island county - once prey to epidemics and poverty - was among the first group to become generally better off in the province last year.

However, it seems the most touching point of Gu's story lies in his strong belief that Communist Party members should always put the interests of the people above those of themselves, be self-disciplined and live without extravagance.

Gu earnestly practised what he believed, setting a good example to Party members and government officials.

A sad fact, however, is that the spirit of Gu is absent in some officials today.

A slack work ethic, nepotism, negligence of duty and even corruption exists to some extent in government organizations.

The rampancy of these scourges could easily erode people's confidence in the Party and government, and harm the good work being done in China's reform and opening up drive.

Among the ills, corruption stands out as the most hated ailment by the public.

A recent survey initiated by the People's Daily website attracted the attention of about 50,000 Internet users. It showed a heightened anti-corruption campaign was their No 1 concern.

It seems the result of the survey conforms with the attitude of the general public towards corruption.

Though nobody can deny the central government's strong determination to root out corruption, the occasional revelation of a big corruption case tends to remind us of the stern reality of the anti-graft crusade.

Worse, new patterns reflected in corruption cases in recent years seem to indicate the fight against the problem will be a long-term, difficult and complex one.

A number of high-ranking officials have been ferreted out in recent years because of their corruption.

According to the Central Discipline Inspection Commission, the Party's top anti-corruption body, from October 1997 to September 2002, 98 leading officials at or above provincial or ministry-level had been either disciplined or punished by law.

Moreover, it has become increasingly commonplace that an investigation begins with a single corruption case and ends up with the disclosure of a string of officials or even a dozen new cases.

This is illustrated by the cases of former National People's Congress Standing Committee Vice-Chairman Cheng Kejie, former Vice-Governor of Hebei Province Cong Fukui and former Shenyang Mayor Mu Suixin and Vice-Mayor Ma Xiangdong.

To better satisfy their insatiable appetite for money and power, these people acted with other officials to form a sort of network in which they protected each other and sought mutual benefit.

Apparently, such offensive and defensive alliances added to the difficulty for discipline inspection and procuratorial organs to discover corrupt officials.

These new symptoms of corruption demand that we should fight the scourge with even greater determination and attack it with new approaches.

Mindful that power without supervision breeds corruption, the 16th Party congress held in November last year vowed to tighten the restraint on and supervision over the use of power.

While government administration should be made more transparent and exercised according to law, an effective interior supervision system should also be set up to ensure the power granted by people is properly used by officials at all levels.

In the meantime, it seems democratic supervision and the supervisory function of the media should be greatly enhanced so corrupt officials cannot escape punishment, even if they manage to get away from the scrutiny of an official inspection.

A recent survey in Siyang County in East China's Jiangsu Province provides valuable experience of how to move in the right direction.

In January, the local government launched a special evaluation poll, asking locals to single out the most unsatisfactory law enforcing organs and officials.

Nineteen law enforcing organizations and economic departments, which have frequent contact with ordinary people and 1,103 officials, were put under public probes.

Nine singled-out officials were ordered to suspend exercising power for half a year, given a 90 per cent cut in salary and asked to write a self-criticism and a plan of rectification.

The assessment then ushered a fresh atmosphere into the county's government organs. The previously slack and bureaucratic working style was totally changed.

If such a democratic climate can be maintained, it seems the building of a clean government in Siyang will be within reach.

Another good example of promoting democratic supervision, especially media supervision, can be found in Changzhi in Shanxi Province.

In 2000, Lu Rizhou, the then Party secretary of the prefecture, launched a massive campaign to curb various transgressions in the prefecture's official circles.

The local media was encouraged to disclose the bad behaviour of local officials.

In three years, thanks to massive public supervision pressure, the working style of Party and government organizations in Changzhi improved while Lu became popular for his bravery to encourage the media's involvement.

The above examples show if public supervision can play a bigger role, it will be instrumental in cultivating a good working environment and curbing corruption.

The public as well as the media have the right to see how public power is being exercised.

The crux of the matter now lies in whether a healthy system can be established at all levels to facilitate public supervision. By Xun Feng

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