The central commission for discipline inspection of the [ruling] Chinese Communist Party has announced: "We will focus our investigations on those who have refused to desist even since the 18th Party Congress. There has been a strong response from the masses, and tip-offs have been coming in thick and fast. We are now promoting talented party officials to important posts."
In today's China, such a decision is of more use than any law. But I believe that it is wrong. If a single meeting by a political party is taken as the benchmark for a national fight against corruption, then it will only serve to reveal the fusion of party and state for what it really is. It is out of keeping with a republican system.
How long has it been now since the 18th Party Congress [in November 2012]? The darkest and stinkiest corruption case, the notorious Three Gorges case, the Luneng case, all manner of land-related cases, including the Shanghai land dispute case that has been continually appealed for 10 or more years by lawyer Zheng Enchong; all of these took place in that time before the 18th Party Congress. Major cases like these don't need more important positions filled by party cadres to come in and do some more lawbreaking on their own account. They just need to be cleanly handled by relatives or their representatives.
So, what does "We will focus our investigations on those who have refused to desist even since the 18th Party Congress" actually mean? As you know, it means that if you play ball with the 18th Party Congress, if you show it some respect, then it will do right by you.
These old "tigers" [high-ranking corrupt officials] are a source of joy, aren't they? Those [low-ranking] flies are going to wish they'd dared to clean up at the time, if the 18th Party Congress is going to be so generous about it! And the vast majority of new tigers and flies have been given fresh confidence.
They can see that after a year of resolutely fighting tigers, all that has happened is that dozens of deputy provincial level "tigers" have been hit.
Even if the total haul had been hundreds of tigers over a 10-year period, would our government have even received a basic clean-up? The rate at which they are slipping through the net, or sheltering under some protective umbrella, is news that we'd love to get hold of but can't. Nor should this massive amnesty be limited to the 18th Party Congress.
Every plenary session of a party congress should have the power to approve an amnesty for corrupt officials. Once this is set in stone to last for millennia, China is sure to become a veritable paradise for corrupt officials.
'At one stroke'
I don't know the provenance of this decision, and I don't know who designed it from the highest level, but it is without doubt in line with the interests of the Chinese Communist Party central government.
At one stroke, with the changing of the guard, all of those corruption cases piled high as mountains are no longer deemed important.
Meanwhile, lawyer Pu Zhiqiang who reported [former security chief] Zhou Yongkang for corruption through legal channels, and all those activists who called on officials to reveal details of their assets have been had up by the authorities for "picking quarrels and stirring up trouble."
Behind the visible anti-corruption campaign, how much hidden weight is given to fighting corruption and how much to maintaining stability?
The demands of those patriotic students back in 1989 for democracy, for an end to dictatorship and for an anti-corruption campaign, were all of a piece. Corruption in China is clearly one of the negative side-effects of a one-party dictatorship.
If the one-party dictatorship isn't changed, and if corruption is deemed to be the internal and secret affair of the party, in which citizens are forbidden to participate, and if those who try to supervise the government are persecuted and suppressed, and if all checks and balances on power are refused and laws flouted: how can such a struggle solve the systemic problem of corruption in China?
Translated by Luisetta Mudie.
Bao Tong, political aide to the late ousted premier Zhao Ziyang, is currently under house arrest at his home in Beijing.