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China to start making new officials disclose assets

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

By Li Hui and Michael Martina

BEIJING (Reuters) - China is to launch a pilot program to make new officials disclose their assets as part of an anti-graft campaign, the Communist Party's anti-corruption watchdog said on Friday.

The government has faced increasing public pressure to improve transparency around officials' wealth, especially after recent corruption scandals involving assets ranging from luxury watches to houses.

Under the program, "leading cadres" who are newly appointed or promoted will have to disclose their assets, the occupations of spouses and children, and international travel records, the ruling party's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection said in an statement on its website.

It did not give details on how the assets would be disclosed or the extent to which they would be made public.

Proponents of asset disclosure were encouraged by pilot programs in the southern province of Guangdong early this year, but hopes were largely dashed when the system required declaration of assets to the party but did not make the information public.

President Xi Jinping has made fighting graft a top theme of his new administration, and has specifically targeted extravagance and waste, seeking to assuage anger over corruption and restore faith in the party.

Despite the anti-corruption campaign, China has detained at least 15 activists pushing for officials to disclose their wealth over the past year or so.

Experts said the pilot program would be a practical first step.

"It's difficult to cover all the incumbent officials because there are too many of them," said Zhou Shuzhen, a professor at Renmin University of China who had suggested building such a system to Wang Qishan, the Party's anti-corruption tsar.

"But bureaucrats always move posts, so after a cycle of three to five years it will cover most of them," Zhou said.

Family and travel information is required because many officials use their positions to benefit family members, amass wealth under their names, or move their family overseas along with illicit funds, he said.

(Reporting by Li Hui and Michael Martina; Editing by Robert Birsel)

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/thomson-reuters/131129/china-start-making-new-officials-disclose-assets