Yang Tao: How Much Did The Department Chief Who Jumped To His Death ‘Bequeath’?

From the Nanfang Daily, translated by Dr. David Kelly, China Research Centre, University of Technology Sydney:

It has been confirmed to me by authoritative channels that on August 2, Wu Jianping, Chief of the Food Production Supervision Department of the State Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ), died a sudden and unnatural death. The cause of Department Chief Wu's death has yet to be officially disclosed. According to informed sources, he committed suicide after a meeting with a prosecuting agency. (Xi'an Evening News, 13 August).

Since the deceased was Department chief of a national-level Ministry or Commission his status is special, and his suicide took place during the Olympic Games period; moreover, on August 1, four Beijing food security companies argued that AQSIQ, in vigorously promoting the "Chinese electronic product quality monitoring network" was engaging in administrative monopoly, bringing the case to Beijing No. 1 Intermediate People's Court, the first case since implementation of the Anti-Monopoly Law. These three factors together made this an event of great concern to the online community. However, while Wu's suicide is in itself neither here nor there, we cannot but be concerned about how much he "bequeathed," because this touches on the public interest and anti-corruption efforts in future.

According to reports, prior to Wu's suicide, "a prosecuting agency in Beijing met with Wu Jianping on August 1, relevant departments having previously received reports that he had 'economic problems.' Wu confessed his property status to the personnel dealing with the case; it comprised several houses in Beijing, and millions of dollars in cash deposits." Well, we have to ask, how will the "several houses, and millions of dollars in cash deposits" be dealt with after the suicide? Since China's current laws on the disposal of the money stolen by corrupt officials who suicide is imperfect, many of them choose suicide after disclosure of their offence, enabling them to leave their families a lot of money, so that "though I die, my family will be happy," and even get to "ingest" the incense family members offer in worship. Thus it was in the case of Wu Jianping, former Chairman of the Tianjin CPPCC Song Pingshun, former vice governor of Hunan Province Zheng Maoqing, former vice mayor of Jilin City Wang Wei, and former chief procurator of Heilongjiang Province Xu Fa. How to recover Wu Jianping's loot, and improve the mechanism for recovery of money from corrupt officials, is therefore a major issue that we must face.

Wu's suicide may have had another purpose, namely "altruistic self-sacrifice," suiciding to prevent the flames burning further up the line, to safeguard the corrupt officials behind him. In some cases, it is basically an "inside" or "string case," such that when you investigate one, many more are brought out; the only thing for individual corrupt officials is to commit suicide in order to safeguard the group behind them. According to reports, the suicide of Wei Dong, a bigshot at Yong Jin, was most likely in order to protect Wang Yi, vice president of the State Development Bank, and former vice chairman of the SFC. We must enquire, therefore, as to the second legacy bequeathed by Wu Jianping—those behind him. The prosecuting agencies still have to intensify the investigation and handling of this case, rather than convemience a large group of corrupt officials because of Wu's passing.

The third legacy left by Wu Jianping is how to conduct effective supervision and limitation of the vertical management of administrative departments and those with highly concentrated administrative powers. In the past, we often focused on preventing interference by local regulators, and hence stressed vertical administration of the personnel and property of some regulatory departments. It's easy, however, for these regulatory agencies to lose control and corruption to be fostered. Some people in the online community argue that "there are so many problems with vertical managing units, with personnel, financial, material power concentrated in one person, and in particular with absolute power over the appointment of cadres: some metropolitan agencies cadres can be promoted only if money is paid over, like plucking down from geese as they pass, no-hopers and crooks can be promoted, while talented people are kept out of the leadership. Anyone stepping out of line is dealt with." AQSIQ is indeed a vertically managed administrative agency; In addition, it is an "old, big and tough" problem to supervise certain relatively powerful agencies. The Food Production Supervision Department of which Wu Jianping was Chief is quite a powerful one; and after his death, AQSIQ director Li Changjiang required the agency to establish regulatory mechanisms to implement effective control over special and sensitive posts: one cannot have the final say, or a single person be responsible for the entire process. This shows that the previous supervision was not on point. If mechanisms for supervising and limiting power cannot be effectively established, therefore, after Wu Jianping's death, there will be more Liu Jianpings and Wang Jianpings advancing wave upon wave.

Wu Jianping is dead, but we still have a very arduous task. Only by seriously cleaning up the "legacies" bequeathed by Wu Jianping can anti-corruption be deepened, can ever more corrupt elements be prevented, and a "government by rule of law," a "clean government" be created.

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