Some Officials Open to Requiring Asset Declarations

In his work report at the opening of the 18th Party Congress, President Hu Jintao spoke out about corruption at the highest levels of government. The official China Daily quotes his speech:

“Leading officials at all levels, especially high-ranking officials, must readily observe the code of conduct on clean governance and report all important matters,” Hu said in a keynote speech at the opening of the CPC’s 18th National Congress.

“They should both exercise strict self-discipline and strengthen education and supervision over their families and their staff; and they should never seek any privilege,” Hu said.

However, Hu offered no specifics about how the Party could carry out such reforms. Forcing officials to declare their assets is one potential method. Two up and coming officials, Guangdong’s Wang Yang and Shanghai’s Yu Zhengsheng, both of whom are vying for a position on the powerful Politburo Standing Committee, told foreign journalists at the Party Congress that they are open to the idea. From Reuters:

The comments by Wang Yang, party boss of Guangdong province, and Yu Zhengsheng, Shanghai’s Communist chief, come at a time of heightened sensitivity about the wealth of China’s top leaders on the eve of a once-a-decade leadership transition.

[...]

Official ostentation has become a hot-button issue on the Chinese Internet. One official was recently sacked and put under investigation after web surfers compiled pictures of him wearing several different luxury watches.

Wang said Guangdong was “exploring” ways to compel officials of the fast-developing province to declare their assets.

“I believe that we Chinese officials will make public our assets step by step in line with central provisions,” said Wang, who some political observers believe is a contender for a spot in the elite Politburo Standing Committee next week.

AP explains why Wang Yang’s views may carry some weight:

Wang’s views matter. An ally of Hu’s from their days 30 years ago in the Communist Youth League, Wang has gone on to forge credentials as a reformer. In Guangdong, he has tried to guide the economy away from labor-intensive assembly-line processing and enacted more tolerant rules for environmental and other local activist groups that the party has mostly tried to suppress.

Wang has been considered a candidate for the new leadership, the Politburo Standing Committee, though party-connected scholars say his policies and popularity have brought a pushback from conservatives, diminishing his chances.

“All party members are reformers,” Wang told reporters Friday, brushing off a question about his prospects. “The report clearly states the goal of the party congress is to liberate thoughts, reform and open up, rally efforts and overcome obstacles. This will not change.”

On corruption, however, the party has been in need of new thinking. The party, which controls courts, police and prosecutors, has proved feeble in policing itself yet does not want to undermine its control by empowering an independent body to do so. Some officials have been required to report income, real estate holdings and other wealth to their superiors since 2010, but the measure has done little to staunch the graft.

See also a Bloomberg investigation into the assets of the family of Xi Jinping, China’s incoming president, and a New York Times investigation into the family wealth of Premier Wen Jiabao (via CDT). Read more about high-level corruption in China.

November 9, 2012 2:37 PM
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