New government transparency rules strike chord with public

07:56, July 13, 2010      

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Thousands of Chinese have joined a heated discussion about new rules that are designed to curb corruption and increase transparency about the assets of government officials.

A regulation that took effect Sunday extends the list declarable assets for officials and introduces dismissal as the maximum penalty for failing to report assets honestly and promptly.

The regulation adds six more items to the list of declarable assets issued in 2006, bringing the total to 14. The new items include incomes from sources like lecturing, painting and calligraphy; homes owned by spouses and children; and equities and investments owned by officials, their spouses and children.

A FIRM STEP

The new rules have struck a public chord and almost 50,000 people had left comments on China's two biggest Internet portal websites on Monday. Thousands more were joining the discussion on other news sites and discussion forums.

More than 36,500 people had made online comments on a news entry about the regulation on leading portal Sohu.com as of 1:30 p.m., and more than 11,000 comments on an entry at Sina.com.cn.

Most of the published postings welcomed the new rules, but some said they should go further.

"The fight against corruption has a long way to go, but I am really glad to see each firm step taken by the central authorities," said a posting from Shanghai on Sina.

"We want to see more detailed provisions and harsher punishments in the rule," said a post by "Shihuiwen 197" on Sohu.

The regulation was issued by the General Office of China's State Council and the General Office of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee.

It requires officials at deputy county chief level and above to annually report their assets, marital status and whereabouts and employment of family members.

It also empowers local provincial level CPC committees and governments to expand the regulations to officials below deputy county chief level.

A CPC statement said Monday that most village or town chief level officials are prone to power-for-money transactions and corrupt actions as they are dealing with practical issues involving personnel, finance and materials.

But as there are a large number of them, requiring all of them to report personal information will require much work and high costs, said the statement jointly issued by the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) and the CPC Central Committee's Organization Department.

So the central authority left the decision to local governments to decide based upon their own conditions, it said.

New requirements for officials to report homes and investments reflected the need to change disciplinary structures in line with changing social and economic values, said Professor Liu Chun, deputy dean of the Graduate Institute of the Party School of the CPC Central Committee.

"This is targeting new problems in social development," said Liu. "Society has been eagerly calling for the reporting of officials' affairs, and the latest move complies with public opinion."

Ren Jianming, director of the anti-corruption and governance research center of Tsinghua University, said, "Corrupt officials take bribes not only in cash, but also in property, stocks and share rights, so the latest regulation effectively patches the hole."
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(Editor:梁军)

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