China's Communist Party Bans Factional Politics, 'Immoral Behavior,' Golf

Two ladies, acting as mistresses, and a middle-aged man, posing as a sacked corrupt official, in a skit satirizing corruption in Shenzhen city, south China's Guangdong province, Jan. 22, 2013.

The ruling Chinese Communist Party has vowed to put a stop to 'immoral' behavior among its 60-some million members, as it bids to clamp down on internal factions and instill a code of ethics into its officials, state media reported.

The rules list eight moral and ethical principles that party members are expected to live by.

They are aimed at preventing extravagant wining, dining, and golf, as well as "improper sexual relations" with anyone, as well as the formation of party cliques, and factions that go against the leadership's political line, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

"The new discipline regulation explicitly lists extravagant eating and drinking and playing golf as violations, which were not included previously," it said.

They exhort officials, who have frequently sparked public anger by driving flashy cars, wearing designer brands, and keeping mistresses, to "cultivate their characters" and to have a "harmonious family life."

"Party members must separate public and private interests, put the public's interest first, and work selflessly," the rules state.

"Members must champion simplicity and guard against extravagance," another says.

'Tigers and flies'

Since taking power in 2012, Chinese president Xi Jinping has launched an ongoing anti-corruption campaign targeting high-ranking "tigers" along with low-ranking "flies."

The party's internal investigative arm, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI), generally begins any probe into alleged wrongdoing by officials behind closed doors.

Rights lawyers have slammed the CCDI system as unaccountable and lacking in legal representation for those accused, as well as resorting to torture and other abuses to elicit forced confessions.

And political commentators have said the anti-corruption campaign is highly selective, with members of factions other than Xi's most likely to be targeted.

Now, a directive issued earlier this month says that party discipline is "stricter than the law and [that] discipline should be put before the law."

Featured on the list of banned behaviors are "forming party cliques," "contravening party principles," "hiding personal issues that should be reported to the party," and "using political power to seek profits for family members and staff."

Party in crisis

Beijing-based political activist Zha Jianguo said the rules are a strong indicator of what is actually going on behind the scenes at all levels of the party.

"It tells us that there are a lot of people who are currently contravening party principles," Zha said. "For these rules to come out is proof positive that the party is in crisis."

"In the past, such rules were unwritten; they never had to be spelled out clearly on paper for all to see," he said. "There are so many people straying from the path that they felt they had to write up a disciplinary code."

According to retired Shandong University professor Sun Wenguang, the clause about factions reveals deep-running anxieties over tensions within the party under President Xi Jinping's rule.

He said even informal meetings between people considered to be part of the same faction could now be regarded as suspect.

"In a normal society, it would be usual for people with similar views to get together on a regular basis," Sun said. "But here, it is being dealt with as a matter of party discipline."

"This tells us that the Communist Party is extremely worried about the rise of the reform faction within the party, or perhaps the enlightenment faction, either of which might unseat their mainstream faction [headed by Xi]," he said.

An old tradition

Former top Communist Party aide Bao Tong hit out at the muzzling of any free speech or differences of opinion within the party, saying that the notion of "iron discipline" within the party dates back to its roots with Lenin and the former Soviet Union.

"Mao Zedong basically went along with Lenin's notion of discipline ... He came up with four principles: that the individual was subject to the organization, that the minority were subject to the majority, that the lower ranks were subject to the higher ranks, and that the entire party was subject to the central leadership," Bao wrote in a commentary on RFA's Mandarin Service.

"All this is to say that if you are a party member, you have to leave yourself behind and follow the party in all things," he said. "If you do that, you are a revolutionary, and if you don't, you're a counterrevolutionary."

"This notion of not straying from the leadership's line isn't new; it's actually quite an old tradition," Bao said.

"But it rests on the assumption that the central leadership can't be wrong; that their policies will always and eternally represent the truth and ... that they will never, under any circumstances, admit or correct their mistakes."

Reported by Yang Fan for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.


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