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September 20, 2017

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'Corrupt' officials in the mainland seized nearly US$1 billion: analysis

BEIJING -- Mainland Chinese officials convicted in mainland China leader Xi Jinping's sprawling anti-corruption drive have embezzled or misused nearly US$1 billion in public funds, a new report has found.

Official corruption causes widespread public anger, and since taking over as the mainland's ruling Chinese Communist Party's (CCP) leader in 2012 Xi has overseen a much-publicized campaign against the scourge.

But critics say there is a lack of transparency around the drive and that it has been used to settle political scores.

ChinaFile, a publication of the Asia Society in New York, has tallied nearly 1,500 publicly announced targets of the campaign, and has released a searchable database.

It shows that 231 officials have been convicted and sentenced in mainland courts since Xi came to power — only a fraction of those put under investigation by the CCP, which operates its own discipline system outside judicial supervision.

Mainland courts — which are controlled by the CCP and have a conviction rate of more than 99.9 percent — found that they embezzled or misused more than 6.3 billion yuan (nearly US$1 billion), according to the verdicts against them, the database shows.

The documents included details such as one official spending 200,000 yuan of public funds on jade jewelry, and another attempting to hide 30 million stolen yuan in his mistress' gardening company.

Xi pledged to target both high-ranking "tigers" and low-level "flies" in his drive.

The governor of populous Sichuan province became the latest to fall, provincial authorities said Friday, after he resigned over allegations he had committed "severe disciplinary violations" — generally a euphemism for corruption.

Wei Hong was reportedly a close friend of China's hugely influential former security chief Zhou Yongkang, by far the most senior figure brought down in the anti-corruption campaign and for whom Sichuan was a power base.

But the ChinaFile database includes proportionately fewer fallen officials from Xi's own provincial strongholds of Fujian and Zhejiang, which ChinaFile said "are among those that appear to have been treated more leniently."

David Zweig, professor of Chinese politics at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, told AFP on Friday: "If you're a Xi guy, you don't get purged. Everybody else, it's open season.

"When he was in those places, he was able to move people into positions of authority. People who are allied to him, therefore there's no need to use the crackdown to transfer out people."

The ChinaFile database only includes individuals who have been declared as corruption suspects by the CCP's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI), related mainland organs or state media, a small fraction of the total investigated.

Earlier this month, the CCDI vice chief said that 336,000 people were punished under party discipline rules last year, with 14,000 of them transferred to judicial authorities.

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