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Hukou and properties

(China Daily)

10:50, February 06, 2013

Nothing is more eye-catching and sensational than the online disclosure, one after another, of officials who have more than one hukou, or household registration, and identity card, which they have used to acquire dozens of properties, in one case more than 100 properties under different identities.

Nothing is more detrimental to the reputation of the government and the Party than the association people may have established between these exposures and the irremediable grimness of the situation.

For the governing Party and the central authorities, their immediate response should be the launch of well-organized probes into these cases and then making public the facts as quickly and thoroughly as possible.

The longer the truth of such cases dangles in the air, the more possible that the public will question the resoluteness of the authorities in fighting against corruption.

If corrupt officials can easily get additional hukou and ID cards, people can justifiably believe that the household registration system provides them with a means to hide their illegal gains even if the institutional mechanism is established for officials to disclose their properties to the public.

It will also be easy for officials who have more than one ID card to get more passports, which will make it much easier for them to flee abroad whenever they feel in danger of being apprehended.

The household registration and ID card system, which is supposed to make it easier to apprehend offenders, actually makes it easier for corrupt officials to make illegal gains and hide them. What a sad fact it is!

The possibility cannot be excluded that the whistleblowers may have exaggerated the facts when they exposed the properties of corrupt officials for the sake of creating sensational effects.

But this has provided the top authorities with an opportunity to make a breakthrough in the fight against corruption. A thorough check should be launched to find out how many officials have more than one hukou or ID card and how many houses they have. A deadline may be set for them to hand in their booty and thus they can be exempt from criminal charges.

That so many people have been found to have multiple legal identities is no small matter. It seriously undermines the credibility of the authorities' claim of rule of law. It has to be eliminated, whatever it takes.

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