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June 25, 2017

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No clear clues about future of transparency in mainland

The use of the word "transparency" to mean political openness or even accountability, if not a Chinese invention, was probably made popular by mainland Chinese authorities in the 1980s. And yet, the "sheer" beauty of the regime still remains elusive.

Both former General Secretary Hu Jintao of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and his successor Xi Jinping have stressed the importance of dealing with corruption, saying in their speeches during and after the 18th CPC National Congress that corruption and graft threatens both the party and the state. Their remarks rang true when a rating agency published its index on state corruption earlier this month.

China has received poor marks in an annual corruption index, underscoring a worsening problem that Communist Party leaders have acknowledged could threaten their grip on power, according to Voice of America.

Transparency International's index on state corruption again placed China well down in the rankings at number 80 out of the 176 countries where perceptions of official graft were measured. It ranked 75th in last year's index.

The report released Wednesday said China was perceived to be more corrupt than Saudi Arabia, but less than other communist-ruled countries such as Vietnam and North Korea. Beijing scored just 39 out of a possible 100 points in the study.

Voice of America also quoted Beijing officials as saying that since 2007 an astonishing 600,000 party officials have been exposed as being involved in corruption-related activities. Of those, only 200,000 were referred to Chinese courts for prosecution, the report said.

But it appears that although ordinary Chinese people and the world at large might have an inkling of the seriousness of the problem, they are normally not aware of it except when a major corruption case, like that of disgraced politician Bo Xilai and his wife are exposed. This is when, as the Chinese saying goes, "You can't paper over a raging blaze."

The world's apparent unawareness could be attributed to a lack of transparency on the part of Chinese authorities in dealing with corruption cases, as in other matters.

A case in point is when Hu Jintao's son was implicated in a corruption investigation in Namibia and Chinese Internet portals and party-controlled media were ordered not to report on the matter, according to a 2009 New York Times report.

At the same time, local leaders engage in "corruption protectionism," as coined by the head of Hunan province's Party Discipline Inspection Commission; apparatchiks thwart corruption investigations against the staff of their own agencies, allowing them to escape punishment.

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