There has been a strong backlash to the Lucent bribery scandal in China as media throughout the country ask questions pointing at a strange fact where the recipients get away unscathed when those doing the bribing get punished.
The French-U.S. communications equipment provider Alcatel-Lucent recently agreed to pay 2.5 million U.S. dollars in fines for bribing Chinese officials to secure multi-million-dollar contracts.
"Who were those that were involved in the scandal?" "Have any authorities done anything on them?" "Is there any legal reference on such cases?" These were the general questions the media asked.
Guangzhou Daily said that the U.S. regulatory body had thoroughly investigated Lucent's misconduct. However, Chinese officials were still described as "related", and their identities were yet unknown.
The Oriental Morning Post echoed such sentiments, and said that the Chinese bribe recipients were usually deliberately covered up. In addition, few cases were investigated as the newspaper examined previously revealed bribes by foreign-funded companies.
It quoted a survey by Anbound, a Beijing-based information consultancy, which showed that China had investigated at least 500,000 corruption cases during the past decade. About 64 percent were related to either foreign trade or foreign companies. These cases also included multinationals such as Siemens, Carrefour and IBM.
The newspaper also cited those involved multinationals who explained the bribes were "necessary" and represented a way of "localization".
"It takes two to tango. A bribery without bribes is ludicrous," the Legal Evening News said.
China has passed laws against commercial bribes. Taking such bribes, in a matter of fact, had become a main reason for corrupt officials stepping down.
China should not only improve the law system, but also strengthen the enforcement. If lax enforcement continued, "there will be more Lucents, and more 'related' officials", said Guangzhou Daily.
China could take the exposed bribery as a peg to crackdown on seemingly rooted commercial briberies, and reshape a healthy commercial environment. As the Guangzhou Daily commented: "The Lucent scandal has been concluded in the U.S., but in China, we should at least have a start."