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China: More Transparency Needed to Better Fight Corruption
Source: china.org.cn
Source Date: Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Country: China
Created: Nov 06, 2012

A raft of property scandals uncovered by netizens have underscored the need for public officials to disclose their assets, which is key for curbing corruption and ensuring social equity.

A government official in Guangzhou, capital of south China's Guangdong Province, was removed from his post after investigators found that his lifestyle far outpaced his salary.

A preliminary investigation announced last week revealed that Cai Bin, a senior urban management official from the city's Panyu District, and his family own 22 housing units, one more than the number claimed by online muckrakers who brought the scandal to light.

In September, Yang Dacai, a former senior work safety official in northwest China's Shaanxi Province, was sacked due to a corruption scandal that was exposed after photos were posted online showing Yang wearing at least 11 expensive wristwatches on multiple occasions.

These scandals were uncovered by Internet users through "human flesh searches," a form of vigilante activism that involves ferreting out a target's personal information and publishing it online, to uncover information regarding those officials' property holdings.

However, the online techniques could not and should not be used as the primary tool for outing and calling attention to corrupt officials. A long-term and systematic supervision mechanism is the fundamental means for preventing and rooting out corruption.

Under the current system, officials should report their property status to higher authorities but not all are required to do so. Making such reports available to the public is conducive to improving public supervision.

At present, only newly appointed grassroots officials in some areas are obliged to disclose their assets while those with more years of service and higher ranks are exempt.

The scope of property declaration should be expanded to include more officials in order to better prevent corruption.

Earlier this week, local authorities turned down the request of a college student in the eastern city of Nanjing to publicize Cai Bin's salary after Cai's property scandal was exposed early this month. The authorities said that such a disclosure was "beyond the scope of voluntary information disclosure."

Authorities in Shaanxi Province rejected a similar request to disclose Yang Dacai's salary, citing similar reasons.

However, a number of scholars and observers argue that such information should be disclosed because government officials are paid by the citizens and their salaries are a matter of public interest.

The Chinese government has promised further efforts to make government affairs public and to expand the scope of the public's right to be informed in accordance with laws, regulations and policies, so as to enhance the level of guaranteeing citizens' right to information.

In the National Human Rights Action Plan of China (2012-2015), which was published in June, the government vowed to make public any government information that does not involve state or trade secrets or individual privacy.

China began to implement the Provisions on the Disclosure of Government Information, which was seen as a milestone in government information disclosure and transparency, in May 2008.
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