|Officials Must Account for All Assets Held in the Family|
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Ruling signifies fresh bid to clamp down on corruption
Officials at the deputy county level and above are required to report their family members' jobs, as well as their family's assets and investments, according to a new regulation that took effect on July 11.
The rule, in a move to fight corruption, broadens the categories of items to be reported by the officials from eight to 14.
"It's a new development of China's anti-corruption mechanism, and it shows central authorities highly value the issue," said Ren Jianming, director of the anti-corruption and governance research center of Tsinghua University.
The newly added items include the official's salary and subsidies; income from other sources such as lecturing; housing owned by the family, including spouse and children; the family's investments in unlisted companies; the family's investment in stocks, investment-oriented insurance and other financing products; and the employment of a spouse and children at home or abroad.
Officials are required to report yearly to the organization departments of Party committees. Organization and discipline departments, as well as prosecutors, can check the reports after going through proper procedures, the new rule says.
The new regulation also makes it clear that those who fail to make timely reports, or report fake or incomplete information, could face dismissal or discipline. The highest punishment stipulated in the previous regulation was informed criticism.
However, according to Zhu Lijia, an anti-corruption professor with the Chinese Academy of Governance, the new regulation fails to make a breakthrough in terms of making officials' assets transparent.
While the regulation requires officials to report to higher officials, it does not make that information public.
"Sunshine is the best way to fight corruption. It's a pity the new rule does not require publicizing officials' assets," he said.
The new regulation was issued by the General Office of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and General Office of the State Council.
The reporting system was set up in 1995, and revised in 1997 and 2006 by broadening items and adding more detailed procedures.
But "it's still an anti-corruption regulation within the system", said Zhu.
Lin Zhe, a professor with the Party School of the CPC Central Committee, said strong opposition from officials prevents China from adopting an asset declaration system that would make information about officials' finances public - but there is a loud public voice calling for it.
"Therefore, the new regulation is a compromise. Its actual effect remains limited," she said.
Ren said ideally such a mechanism would contain five steps: clarification of who should report and what should be reported; procedures of reporting; release of the details in the reports; examination on whether the reports are true; and punishments for those who fail to report properly.
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Published on our website on July 14, 2010