Zhao Guopin/For China Daily
Campaign against corruption brings into focus people in positions of responsibility whose families are living overseas. But one province is leading the way to ensure that the home alone concept is being tackled, reports Zhang Lei in Beijing.
The campaign against corruption is throwing new light on officials who send their wives and children abroad, where they can possibly set up channels for the transfer of illicit income and establish a base in case they are forced to flee China.
These "naked officials", a moniker that has gained currency among the general public, not least because of its mocking tone, are not necessarily corrupt, but the potential is there and at the very least it sends the wrong signal. After all, if an official's family is overseas, then questions can be asked about their work commitment, analysts said.
One province is tackling the issue and has already repositioned, demoted or retired officials who have not brought their families back or provided a satisfactory explanation for sending them overseas.
Nearly 900 government officials in Guangdong province, mostly occupying midlevel positions, have been repositioned after investigators discovered that their families had obtained either permanent residency or citizenship abroad while the officials continued to work in China.
The move is heralded by many as a confirmation of the government's resolve to tackle corruption, and it is the first time a provincial government has taken such action.
According to People's Daily, Guangdong has completed the repositioning of "naked officials", which include nine prefecture-level and 134 county-level officials. In May, Fang Xuan, deputy Party secretary of Guangzhou, retired five months earlier than scheduled, making him the highest-ranked official in the province to be targeted.
"There is no doubt that this is a breakthrough," said Ding Yuanzhu, deputy director at the Consultation Department of the Chinese Academy of Governance.
"For the first time the public obtained data and details of the 'naked officials' from official sources. The media coverage has also been comprehensive.
"These officials pose a very serious problem. Their behavior shows that they do not have confidence in the economic future of the country. When these people assume important positions in our government but don't have confidence in our country, this could lead to negative consequences for ordinary people."
The coastal province has adopted an under-the-radar strategy, quietly removing the officials from key positions. By the end of May, the Guangdong government had uncovered more than 1,000 "naked officials". Of these, more than 200 chose to bring their families home. In Jiangmen alone, 128 officials have been transferred to other positions.
The strategy - either you bring your family back or accept a transfer to a lesser position or accept early retirement - has evolved over the last two years.
Prior to the crackdown, the officials were normally found out through whistleblowers and while this is still an option new regulations have made it easier to track them.
In July 2010 leading cadres had to declare their family status, where they were living, as well as any real estate assets and other economic investments.
In 2012, the Guangdong Provincial Party Committee proposed that "naked officials" should not hold important leadership positions.