Commentary: Bribers are guilty too

UPDATED: 08:37, June 22, 2007

Giving and receiving bribes are both crimes, but China's courts traditionally mete out heavy penalties to those who take bribes while letting off the people who give bribes as long as they confess.

The names of eight people who bribed Zheng Xiaoyu, former head of the drug watchdog who was sentenced to death on corruption and dereliction of duty charges last month, have been posted on the home page of a Beijing law office by Zheng's attorneys Zhang Qing and Liu Ning, in a legal document concerning Zheng's case, the 21st Century Business Herald reported earlier this week.

Zheng, 63, former director of China's State Food and Drug Administration, took bribes, including cash and gifts, worth more than 6.49 million yuan (850,000 U.S. dollars), the court heard.

The bribes, from 110,000 yuan (14,000 U.S. dollars) to almost 2.93 million yuan (375,600 U.S. dollars), were given either directly or through his wife and son, according to the legal document.

Bribers who offer more than 10,000 yuan (1,300 U.S. dollars) should be prosecuted and so should people who accept bribes of more than 5,000 yuan (650 U.S. dollars), according to a Supreme People's Procuratorate regulation.

"Zheng was offered bribes ten or even a hundred times over the threshold, but none of the eight bribers has been charged," Liu Kejun, a columnist, wrote in an article in China Youth Daily. "This contravenes the government's hardline on corruption".

Chinese laws go easy on those offering bribes provided they confess and offer evidence to help convict the person who has accepted the bribe. But this leniency carries a high social cost.

The consequences of Zheng's bribery and dereliction of duty proved extremely serious. Six types of medicine approved by the administration during his tenure were fake. Some pharmaceutical companies used false documents to apply for approvals, the court heard.

The court ruled the death sentence was appropriate given the "huge bribes involved and the great damage inflicted on the country and the public by Zheng's dereliction of duty".

However, punishing the bribe taker and letting those who offered the bribe run free is a form of connivance in the system.

Legal experts say the holes in the laws must be fixed and bribers punished if China wants a balanced approach to corruption.

"The eradication of all corruption calls for penalties for both briber takers and bribe givers. Bribe givers must not escape punishment even after they confess," wrote columnist Liu.

Source: Xinhua

People's Daily Online ---