Graft 'Biggest Risk' For Beijing

China's leaders pledge to implement reforms at the end of an annual lawmakers' meeting.
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Wu Bangguo (C) speaks at the National People's Congress as Hu Jintao (L) and Wen Jiabao (R) look on, March 14, 2011.
Wu Bangguo (C) speaks at the National People's Congress as Hu Jintao (L) and Wen Jiabao (R) look on, March 14, 2011.

China's parliament closed in Beijing on Monday amid further promises of political reform and warnings over corruption from top leaders.

"I think the biggest risk we face is corruption," Premier Wen Jiabao told a news conference marking the close of the National People's Congress (NPC) in Beijing. "It also means addressing people's grievances and implementing their wishes."

"Rooting out corruption is part of reform to the political system," he said.

But Wen ruled out political upheaval of the kind recently seen in the Middle East, indicating that reforms would take place under the aegis of the ruling Communist Party.

Wen, 69, who is nearly at the end of his eight-year tenure, has widely been regarded as a reformer, but has stopped short of calling for any major changes to the existing political system.

"It is by no means easy to pursue political restructuring in a big country like China with 1.3 billion people," Wen said.

"It requires a stable and harmonious social environment and it needs to be taken up in orderly way under the leadership of the Party," he told reporters.

'People's interests first'

NPC chairman Wu Bangguo warned at the weekend that China would slip into an "abyss of internal disorder" if it strayed from the current system of government.

China will never adopt a "multi-party revolving-door system or other Western-style political models," Wu said.

Chinese leaders have repeatedly dismissed calls in recent weeks for "Jasmine" protests along the lines of those seen in Tunisia and Egypt in recent weeks.

"We have embarked on a development path that fits China's national conditions," Wen said, adding that China will continue to "put people's interests first."

China's Communist Party faces thousands of mass protests a year across the country, often related to allegations of official wrongdoing, but usually with a local focus.

Protesters and petitioners repeatedly complain of forced evictions from their homes, the sale of their farmland without compensation, and mistreatment by law enforcement agencies.

The authorities investigated 2,723 corrupt officials at or above the county level in 2010, including 188 at the prefecture level and six at the ministerial level, according to the state prosecution service.

Abuse of power

In his annual work report to the NPC, Procurator-General Cao Jianming said that his ministry had recovered "illicit" money and goods worth 7.4 billion yuan (U.S. $1.12 billion).

Cao promised to target official misconduct behind major accidents and "mass incidents" in its continuing graft probe in 2011.

He cited the abuse of official power in local governments, including officials who serve as a "protective umbrella" for mafia-style groups and criminal gangs.

However, China's leaders are also boosting national spending on domestic security to ensure social stability in major cities and troubled ethnic minority regions.

The NPC sat down for its annual session in Beijing amid unprecedented security this year.

Beijing's spending on domestic security surpassed the military budget for the first time, rising to 624.4 billion yuan (U.S. $94.7 billion) this year, compared with the People's Liberation Army budget of 601.1 billion yuan (U.S. $91.2 billion).

Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.





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