Officials Urged to Declare Wealth

Activists demand that China's leaders fulfill their pledge to fight corruption.
2012-12-14
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Visitors at an anti-corruption exhibition in Hangzhou, eastern China's Zhejiang province, Oct 8, 2011.
EyePress News

A campaign to pressure top officials of the ruling Chinese Communist Party to make public the details of their family wealth is gathering momentum with demonstrations and a petition, activists said on Friday.

More than 2,000 people took to the streets of Shanghai this week, marching along a main road in the downtown district and calling on officials to publicize details of their assets, income, and investments, as well as those of their spouses and children.

A Shanghai resident surnamed Lu who took part in the demonstration said her family had been forcibly evicted from their home, which was later demolished, by the government.

"There were more than 2,000 people there altogether," Lu said. "Corruption is really terrible now. My own home was taken away from me."

"I reckon that our village Party secretary ... embezzled around one billion yuan. We all went to Beijing to try to get him to reveal his assets, but the entire government [at the next level up] had also been bought off," she said.

"[He] has been in office for [nearly] 20 years, and we have never even seen the [village] accounts."

An official who answered the phone at the Shanghai municipal government press office on Friday said they hadn't received any information to give to the media about the demonstration, or any official response.

"I have no way of confirming whether what you say is accurate, and I have no authority to speak on this matter," the official said.

'Louder voices'

The petition was written and initially signed by 65 prominent rights activists, including Beijing-based Hu Jia, Guanzhou-based rights lawyer Guo Feixiong, literature professor and film-maker Ai Xiaoming, and by rights lawyers Liu Xiaoyuan, Liu Weiguo, and Zheng Enchong.

Online author Li Huaping, who also signed, said the letter wasn't the first call to officials across China to begin publishing the details of their own and their families' assets.

"We want there to be more voices, and louder voices, that are more widespread and more far-reaching, so that the Chinese government will take this problem much more seriously," Li said.

He said the letter supported recent calls by president-in-waiting Xi Jinping at last month's 18th Party Congress.

"We support Xi Jinping's fight against corruption, as well as his open call for a country ruled by law," Li said. "If he is determined to fight corruption and to rule by law, then he should start with himself."

"It the higher ranks aren't clean, the lower ranks will be crooked," he said. "This has to come from the highest level."

The letter said that corruption is the most serious problem faced by contemporary Chinese society, and that sloganeering and sporadic anti-graft campaigns have done little to stop it from getting worse.

Transparency 'crucial'

Beijing University of Science and Technology professor Hu Xingdou, who also signed the petition, said transparency over officials' assets is crucial in fighting corruption.

"Most countries in the world do this, because the declaration of assets is crucial to fighting corruption," Hu said. "If the assets aren't declared, how can the people supervise [the government]?"

"This doesn't have to happen all at once, but it should definitely proceed step by step," he added.

China's new leadership this week dismissed a top official in Sichuan for graft, at the same time vowing to do away with lavish receptions for ruling Chinese Communist Party functionaries.

Li Chuncheng, deputy Party secretary of the southwestern province of Sichuan, was placed under investigation last month by the Party's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, following warnings from incoming president Xi Jinping that the Party must beat graft or lose power.

China scored poorly in an annual global corruption index published this month by Berlin-based Transparency International, which measures perceptions of corruption around the world.

Mainland China ranked 80th out of 176 countries, down five places from last year.

Reported by Xin Yu for RFA's Mandarin service, and by Wen Yuqing for the Cantonese service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.