Sex, Bribes And Audiotape

How to catch a cadre in the act of being bribed? It’s a popular question in the Chinese papers in these lascivious times.

Here, from yesterday’s China Youth Daily, is the rosy story of peasants in Guangxi province who pulled off the perfect set-up (link). The villagers of Huleitun, in the autonomous Zhuang minority region, thought they finally had won a lengthy legal battle with a neighboring village over rights to a forested swath of mountainside. Until a local forestry chief, Nong Jianmin, asked for 120,000 yuan to hand over documents enforcing a court decision. After haggling with him for a year, the peasants dickered down the price to 40,000 yuan. They eventually raised the bribe money and in August, sent a representative, identified by the paper as Zhang Hua (a made-up name), at a banquet hall in the county town. Nong took the bait and had broken out the baijiu when agents from the local procuratorate, tipped off in advance by the villagers, stormed in and nabbed him. The story concludes:

In fact, on many occasions during his bargaining with the villagers, the village quietly had picked up legal weapons against him. Every conversation was recorded by the villagers. On a total of eight CDs of recordings, what the reporter heard Nong Jianchun say most was: “If you do don’t give over the money, this can’t be done. To get the document with the official stamp will cost you.” Once he said: “Without the money, even in ten years you won’t get the document.” But before “Zhang Hua” handed over the money to Nong Jianchun, the villagers copied the serial number of every single bill. This became important evidence that Nong Jianchun could not deny.

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Alas, officials elsewhere are getting smarter, and official bribery is taking subtler forms. Last week, the Legal Times, ran a long analysis about renewed efforts to criminalize the practice of “sexual bribery” (link). The U.N. anti- treaty, which China has signed, extends the definition of bribery to include such “inappropriate favors”. Chinese law still confines it to “property”. But the bedchamber escapades of officials both male and female have become a featured subplot of imbroglios, and in April, a national legislative delegate from Sichuan made a new proposal to enter the offense into China’s criminal code. According to the paper:

Supporters argue that sexual bribery can directly affect clean governance, greatly undermine social tendencies, and cause adverse effects to the image of state organs. And because it is in essence a trade of sex for power, the temptation and harmfulness at times exceeds property bribes of property. The damage to society is self-evident.

But opponents, the piece goes on, contend that sex bribes would be too hard to ascertain and enforce. A law also would risk confusing legal norms with moral standards. The paper, which is overseen by the Ministry of Justice, concludes by suggesting that existing Communist Party disciplinary rules are more flexible, and hence more effective, than a new law would be at present.

The current drive to criminalize sex bribes in China actually dates to 1996, when Nanjing University professor Jin Weidong first advocated legal countermeasures. But the idea was rejected at the time, says the story, because it “conflicted greatly with traditional views.”

Which is ironic, considering “sexual bribery” has been around in China about as long as corruption itself. The Legal Times goes off on a historic tangent about it. The paper portrays Xi Shi (Ë•øÊñΩÔºâand Diao Chan ÔºàË≤ÇÁ¶Ö), two of the Four Beauties of ancient lore, as the original “sex bribes”.

November 5, 2006, 7:27 AM