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Officials told to give up their VIP cards

By Chen Xin and Cao Yin  (China Daily)

08:23, May 28, 2013

Membership gifts have been used to avoid detection of bribery

China's top anti-graft official Wang Qishan on Monday urged disciplinary and supervisory staff to return all membership cards gifted by others.

The chief of the Party's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection said during a videophone meeting that the campaign aims to send a signal to the Party and society that anti-graft officials are taking real action to improve their working style as required by the new leadership in December.

The country's top leaders have required officials to reduce meetings, condense paperwork, minimize traffic disruption during official visits and exercise frugality.

Wang is asking anti-corruption officials to return before June 20 all kinds of membership cards they have received as gifts.

"Although membership cards are small objects, they reflect a big problem in working style," he said.

Wang said the campaign is a concrete measure for anti-graft officials to "purify" themselves.

"It's a must, and it's doable," he said. "Disciplinary officials should make themselves upright and honest before they ask others to do so."

Zhu Lijia, a professor at the Chinese Academy of Governance, spoke highly of the move, saying the campaign will help deal with membership card-related corruption.

"Many officials' salaries cannot afford expenses at high-end places, such as golf clubs, but they often consume in those places with membership cards," he said, adding that hidden graft has become popular.

It is good to see that disciplinary officials will return membership cards on their own initiative, he said, but similar campaigns need to be carried out in the future.

Yang Xiaojun, a law expert at the academy, said that the campaign was the first time that authorities have addressed the issue of membership cards.

Yang said he hopes the move will later be expanded to cover officials in other departments.

"The membership cards are basically equivalent to money, so they would easily breed corruption and become a common way to accept bribes," he said.

The effectiveness of the move will depend on the follow-up measures that the government takes, he said.

"After all, what we have is just the deadline. We need more specific supportive measures to improve the move," he added.

Hao Heping, a former senior official with the China Food and Drug Administration, was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2006 for bribery.

Hao was given three golf club membership cards worth more than 500,000 yuan ($81,700).

A State Council regulation issued in 2011 prohibits government officials from receiving any kind of commercial prepaid cards during official activities.

Officials who received such cards but did not turn them over to the authorities are deemed to have received the equal amount in cash.

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