The 16th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) has made clear its decision that the fight against corruption is a major political task of fundamental importance. The year of 2003 saw a good catch of corrupt officials in the net of justice. This demonstrated the determination on the part of the central government to punish corrupt officials but it also indicated that corruption is still a serious problem.
Hu Angang is a professor with Tsinghua University and director of the Center for China Study under the Chinese Academy of Sciences. He estimates annual losses to the Chinese economy due to corruption are running at some 987 to 1,257 billion yuan (US$123 to 157 billion). This would place the problem in the range of say 13 to 17 percent of the country's GDP.
Government official who took bribes
A former provincial government official in east China's Shandong Province was convicted of taking bribes and given a life sentence by the Jinan Intermediate People's Court on April 23.
Pan Guangtian, 59, former vice chairman of the Shandong Provincial Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) and president of the Shandong Association of Industry and Commerce, was found to have accepted bribes totaling 1.53 million yuan (US$189,000) between May 1992 and October 2001.
Pan is the highest-ranking official to have been prosecuted in Shandong, and also the highest-ranking official without party affiliation to have been found guilty in China.
Pan was born in 1945 in a suburb of Jinan, capital of Shandong Province. After graduating from high school he worked as a bank clerk in Chiping County. From February 1992, he worked for various branches of the Shandong Agricultural Bank of China. By April 1998 he had a post on the CPPCC Shandong committee.
But Pan had a lust for money that grew stronger with each career advancement. It was in May 1992 that he opened his Pandora's Box when he took his first bribe of HK$10,000. By October 2001 he had accepted a total of 31 bribes.
The Judge who flouted the law
Tian Fengqi, former president of the Liaoning Provincial Higher People's Court, found himself on trial at the Dandong Intermediate People's Court May 12-13 charged with taking bribes. He was sentenced to life imprisonment on May 15 as a convicted criminal.
The court found that when holding the post of vice secretary of the municipal Party committee of Shenyang, Liaoning Province, Tian exploited his office and accepted bribes amounting to 2.54 million yuan (US$317,500) between May 1997 and November 1998.
Then when acting as president of the Liaoning Provincial Higher People's Court, Tian took advantage of his new position and power with bribes totaling a further 760,000 yuan (US$95,000) between June 1999 and August 2001.
The authorities have seized his ill-gotten gains in line with the judgement.
Corruption under the pretence of religious observance
The Zhangjiakou Intermediate People's Court sentenced Cong Fukui, former vice governor of Hebei Province, to death on April 27. The sentence was made subject to a two-year suspension. Cong lodged an appeal.
On June 13, the Hebei Provincial Higher People's Court handed down the final judgment. The higher court had upheld the original verdict.
Cong was convicted of taking bribes totaling 9.36 million yuan (US$1.17 million) between the beginning of 1997 and June 2000.
Cong's guilt was first brought to light in May 2000. To atone for his own crimes, a Hong Kong suspect who was involved in the notorious Xiamen Yuanhua smuggling case reported Cong to the authorities for soliciting a US$250,000 bribe. And so the weight of justice came down on the tip of Cong's bribe-taking iceberg.
Cong's downward spiral into disgrace can be traced back to 1996 when he first met up with self-appointed "clairvoyant" Yin Fengzhen. Targeting Cong as having considerable potential to be fraudulently exploited, Yin lured him into believing in his own corrupted version of Buddhism. Over a period of a couple of years Cong misused his position to the tune of over 17 million yuan (roughly US$2 million). In Cong's case, the pretext of Buddhism also served as an avenue for money laundering as ill gotten gains were disguised as funds raised for Buddhist services.
Though it can sometimes be a long trawl, once the net of justice is in place there is no way out for the criminal. A 10-month-long investigation finally led to Cong, once an important political figure, being thrown into prison in April 2001.
The corrupt governor and his corrupt son
On June 20, the Beijing Municipal Higher People's Court upheld a ruling by the Beijing No.2 Intermediate People's Court given on May 9. And so Li Jiating, once the governor of Yunnan Province, finds himself under sentence of death with a two-year stay of execution.
From early 1994 to July 2000 when he served as deputy Party secretary of Yunnan provincial committee and vice governor and then governor of the province, Li took over 18.1 million yuan (US$2.2 million) in bribes. His misdeeds were undertaken in collusion with his son Li Bo, whose case is being examined separately.
In reaching its verdict the intermediate court took account of the fact that after his arrest Li had cooperated with the law enforcement agencies with all the bribes having been recovered.
Li first stepped onto the slippery slope of his criminal path to raise money to help his son study abroad. "Everything I did, I did for my son including taking bribes, confessing my crimes, informing against other wrongdoers and lodging an appeal," Li said.
'Commander-in-chief' of a bunch of corrupt officials
The Guizhou Provincial CPC Standing Committee decided on April 22 to expel a senior Party official from the CPC for corruption. The decision was approved by the Third Plenary Session of the Ninth Guizhou Provincial CPC Committee on July 19.
Liu Fangren, former secretary of the Guizhou Provincial CPC Committee and chairman of the Standing Committee of the Guizhou Provincial People's Congress, was found to have taken over US$200,000 in bribes in office while engaging in a long-running affair with a married woman.
Other punishments awaiting Liu have yet to be decided.
In 2003, Guizhou, a province in southwest China, saw a whole bunch of corrupt officials being brought to justice. The list included notorious names like Liu Changgui, former vice governor of Guizhou, Lu Wanli, ex-director of communications of Guizhou, Yao Kangle, former head of Guizhou Press and Publication Administration, Luo Fayu, former director of Guizhou Land Tax Administration and so on. Among all these criminals, Liu had the dubious distinction of being recognized as the "commander-in-chief."
Liu's downfall started when he was ensnared by the charms of a hairdresser surnamed Zheng. Her lover, Chen Lin, a businessman engaged in real estate, acted as a go-between and arranged frequent rendezvous for Liu and Zheng. Chen was eventually to succeed in making Liu his accomplice in crime. Liu accepted approximately US$35,000 in bribes from Chen.
Both Chen and Zheng are now behind prison bars.
The bribes Liu received from the Guizhou Jundian Construction Group topped the list adding up to 1.49 million yuan (US$186,250).
Guizhou is an underdeveloped province. But the country launched the Western Development Strategy in recent years and investment came rolling in. Some officials found themselves tempted by opportunities to divert public funds into their own private purses.
Unhealthy market practices, lack of transparency in government and weak administrative and supervisory mechanisms may serve to explain the prevalence of official corruption in Guizhou. This was the view expressed by Xie Yi, vice president of the Guizhou Provincial Academy of Social Sciences.
Disgrace in his later years
Wang Zhonglu held the important posts of vice governor of Zhejiang Province and chairman of the board of directors and general manager of the Zhejiang International Trust and Investment Corporation.
With the approval of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the CCDI, Wang was expelled from membership of the Chinese Communist Party for violating Party discipline. In addition he has been charged with breaking the law and is facing court proceedings.
Wang was born in 1930 and joined the Communist Party in 1956. He took up the post of vice governor of Zhejiang Province in 1987. Between September 1992 and August 1996 he became not only secretary of the Party group, but also chairman of the board of directors and general manager of the Zhenjiang International Trust and Investment Corporation. He retired in October 2000.
Wang took advantage of his position and power. He accepted bribes and arranged for a company to receive a substantial loan and financial guarantees without going through the proper procedures that would have involved collective scrutiny. This resulted in a substantial loss of public funds.
Wang is further accused of dereliction of duty, leading a dissolute lifestyle and knowingly permitting his son to accept large sums of money.
A lack of accountability
Cheng Weigao was party secretary of the Hebei Provincial Committee of the CPC and chairman of the Standing Committee of the Hebei Provincial People's Congress.
With the approval of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the CCDI, Cheng was expelled from the Chinese Communist Party for violating Party discipline.
Born in 1933 Cheng now stands accused of misusing his influence to enable his wife and children to engage in illegal activities, of accepting valuable gifts as inducements and of conspiring with his two secretaries to engage in criminal activities. And what's more he has also been accused of seeking vengeance against the colleagues who reported his corruption.
According to a terse announcement made by the Standing Committee of the CCDI, Cheng should be held responsible for the substantial losses of government funds that have resulted from his corrupt practices.
Cheng's history of corruption may date back as far as the 1990s, when he served as Hebei governor and Party secretary of the Hebei Provincial Committee of the CPC. Two of his secretaries from those days Wu Qingwu and Li Zhen, have already been found guilty of corruption, accepting bribes and other crimes.
Wu was sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve and Li was sentenced to death. It has been alleged that without Cheng's patronage, Wu and Li could not have moved up the organizational ladder with such amazing speed. And what's more it has been suggested that without Cheng's backing, some of the bribery cases where inducements were offered in return for their influence would just not have happened.
When Cheng was in power, many officials in Hebei Province were investigated and dealt with. Some 67 officials above county-level are implicated in Li Zhen's case.
The downfall of a government minister
Tian Fengshan was Minister of Land Resources.
Tian was dismissed from his post for serious violation of Party discipline in October 2003. This news attracted wide attention from both home and abroad. It leaves no room for doubt as to the determination of the state's new leadership to root out corruption wherever it might reside.
Tian's violations were related mainly to his activities in Heilongjiang Province and later in the Ministry of Land and Resources. The allegations that during his tenure in Heilongjiang Province, he had been involved in a number of corruption cases caused quite a stir in northeast China. During his time in the ministry a series of irregularities were discovered in connection with land approvals and the transfer and use of state special funds.
Tian was born in October 1940 in Zhaoyuan County, Heilongjiang Province. He joined the Communist Party in March 1970. In the early 1960s, Tian studied at the Second Artillery Technical College in Xi'an, Shaanxi Province. From 1965-66, he worked as a primary school teacher in his hometown.
Tian pursued a successful official career from 1968. Starting as secretary of the Party Committee in a village in Zhaoyuan County in the late 1960s, he had progressed to the position of secretary of the Party Committee of Mudanjiang City by 1988. He then went on to become vice governor of Heilongjiang Province, secretary of the Party Committee of Harbin City, deputy secretary of the Party Committee of Heilongjiang Province and governor of the province. In March 2003 he was appointed to the post of Minister of Land and Resources.
Substantial assets of questionable origins
Wang Huaizhong was vice governor of east China's
The Intermediate People's Court in Jinan, Shandong Province, sentenced this former provincial vice governor to death. He had been found guilty of accepting bribes and holding substantial assets that he could not account for.
The court convicted Wang of accepting bribes totaling 5.17 million yuan (US$623,000) between September 1994 and March 2001. Wang was unable to account for 4.8 million yuan (US$578,000) in assets seized by the authorities. He was found to have tried to bribe the investigators into dropping his case. Wang misused his powers for personal gain. He was responsible for massive losses to the country that have been put at 41.2 billion yuan.
Wang was taken into custody in April 2001 and expelled from the Communist Party in September 2003.
Abuse of power for personal gain
Liu Ketian was vice mayor of Shenyang, capital of Liaoning Province, in the early 1990s and vice governor from 1995.
Liu was sacked in November 2003 for taking bribes and accepting cash gifts. He also stands accused of misusing his official power for personal gain and tolerating illegal activities by his relatives.
With the approval of the Central Committee of the CPC and the Central Discipline Committee, Liu was expelled from membership of the CPC for violating Party discipline. His case has been put in the hands of the courts on charges of illegal conduct.
Liu's fall came as no surprise to the province's political community. Two and a half months before he was taken into custody, local Party members knew that Liu was under disciplinary investigation.
Liu's family is from Ninghe County in Hebei Province. Liu himself was born in Shenyang in 1951. He graduated from the Central Party School and then Liaoning University. He holds a master's degree and a Ph.D. in economics.
He entered politics in the early 1980s and went on to hold the post of vice mayor of Shenyang from August 1990 to February 1995. In February 1995, he was elected vice governor of Liaoning Province and occupied that position for two terms until his removal from office.
(China.org.cn by Li Jingrong and Shao Da, January 20, 2004)