The Hunt Is On: Rooting out Corruption in CPC
2011/06/30

 By Xinhua writers Yu Fei and Duan Bo

BEIJING, June 30 (Xinhua) -- Abuse of power and corruption seem to be an unavoidable endemic among leading parties and governments in the world. However, the Communist Party of China (CPC) has a special force to oversee those who wish to take advantage of their power.

Feared and hated by corrupt officials, the discipline watchdogs of the CPC are a driving force in ridding the Party of graft, corruption and abuse.

COMBATING COUNTRYSIDE CORRUPTION

Tian Zhirong, a tall, 37-year-old man with a booming voice, takes his inspections seriously. He was recently promoted from being a disciplinary watchdog to the Party chief of Fengzhuang township in northwest China's Shaanxi Province.

Before working in Fengzhuang, Tian was the secretary of the commission for discipline inspection of Zaoyuan township. Rapid economic development has caused many conflicts of interest in the town over the last ten years.

"When I began my work in Zaoyuan in 2001, there were many farmers coming to petition, complaining about local officials who were breaking rules. I received petitioners from as many as nine villagers in one day," says Tian.

The discipline inspection commissions of the CPC are responsible for intra-Party supervision. One of the major tasks of the discipline watchdogs is to help build a clean Party and fight against corruption.

In 2002, Tian went to the village of Biangou to speak with the village committee about allegations of corruption in the village. Someone threw stones into his room at night to thwart his investigation. Undaunted, Tian replaced his windows and continued his investigation. Two leaders of the village were found to have embezzled more than 600,000 yuan (about 92,736 U.S. dollars).

Another investigation in 2003 resulted in some suspicious-looking people lurking around Tian's home. He asked his wife and child to stay away from home after one of the mysterious stalkers came inside and knocked over a pan while his wife was cooking.

"My wife worried a lot and didn't support me in the beginning. She got used to it gradually. I'm not afraid, because I know I'm right," Tian says.

An oil field manager recently came to Tian to ask him to help with expanding the manager's business. Tian told him to abide by the town's regulations. The manager secretly left 2,000 yuan in Tian's office as a bribe, but Tian returned the money.

"I don't remember how many things like this have happened before. They think it's a shortcut to achieve their goal. Yes, 2,000 yuan is not a small sum for me. I only make 3,000 yuan a month. But if I can't resist the temptation, how can I ask others to obey? The biggest challenge for a discipline supervisor is conquering himself," says Tian.

When officials from higher authorities come to the town, it's a common practice for local officials to treat them with banquets and expensive liquor. Tian hates this form of dining and wining, which is often funded with public money. "This practice has destroyed the working style of the Party, as well as the health of officials," Tian says.

A frugal kitchen was set up in the government of Fengzhuang in 2010 to provide meals for various officials on business in the town. The cost of each official's meal is no more than 20 yuan, and alcohol is banned from the kitchen's canteen.

"The kitchen has been welcomed by the masses. Every year, we save about 900,000 yuan in banquet costs," Tian says.

He says that discipline inspection work also requires humanity. When the Party chief of the village of Lucaogou was found to have embezzled 10,000 yuan in public funds, he was dismissed and given a warning. After dealing with the case, Tian visited the official's home, finding that his wife was disabled and that his family was quite poor. Tian helped them work through their difficulties and had an emotional discussion with the official, during which he admitted his mistakes.

"We don't just punish these Party members. We also try to save them," Tian says.

ORDINARY PEOPLE, EXTRAORDINARY POSTS

Yan Shengli, secretary of the commission for discipline inspection of Zhidan County of Shaanxi Province, does his best to meet the needs of local petitioners when he isn't busy with meetings.

"No matter how bad of an attitude they have when they come into my office, I treat them warmly. I give them a glass of water and ask them to voice their complaints," Yan says.8 "We must maintain a reliable channel for the masses to express their demands. Otherwise, accumulated negative emotions might lead to radical actions," Yan says.

The discipline inspection commission of Zhidan County investigates more than 60 cases every year. Yan says he has offended many people because of his work. The county's officials are quite familiar with each other, which can make supervision more difficult.

However, at the end of the day, Tian is just a regular citizen. In his spare time, he likes to play table tennis, watch sports and check out American movies. He reads newspaper on his mobile phone every day. He says that although he considers his work "sacred," he is still just an ordinary person with common emotions and desires.

"Being a discipline supervisor for five years, I often worry about failures in my work. Corrupt officials who have been punished for their actions have shown us that we can't make the same mistakes as them," Tian says.

He says there is no necessary connection between corruption and a one-party ruling system. Corruption is a universal phenomenon all over the world, and the CPC has always taken a zero tolerance attitude toward corruption.

"However, as long as people experience lust and desire for material things, corruption will always exist. No doctor can prevent everybody from getting ill, no matter how advanced his methods are. As long as we minimize the occurrence of corruption, our work can be called successful," Tian says.

According to the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection of the CPC, discipline watchdogs at various levels investigated nearly 140,000 cases of corruption across the country in 2010. A total of 146,517 Party members, including 5,098 officials at or above the county or department level, were punished for violations.

NEW HUNTERS RECRUITED

Cao Ruizhi, 39, a discipline supervisor in the forestry bureau of Yan'an, never expects to fight corruption three years ago. He still refers to himself as an "expert of ecological protection."

After graduating from the forestry school of Yan'an, Cao took part in a water and soil conservation project on the loess plateau of Shaanxi Province. Cao was then sent to work at the Yan'an Beautiful Mountain and River Office, where he worked in reforestation programs.

Because of his excellent work, Cao was promoted and transferred to the discipline inspection commission.

"I had many misgivings about taking the job at the beginning. I thought the work was so mysterious, I had no idea where to start," Cao says.

He reads many books about discipline inspection and learns from experienced discipline inspectors in order to prepare for his new position.

"My investigations in grassroots areas have helped me find loopholes in our system," Cao says.

After Cao became the discipline inspector of the forestry bureau of Yan'an in 2008, an accountability system was implemented in the city's Party and governmental organizations, aiming at officials who failed to perform their duties or violated Party discipline.

By the end of 2010, the discipline committee of the forestry bureau had sent more than 400 notices to other government bodies, asking them to correct problems related to discipline. The accountability system has helped prevent the violation of laws and discipline, Cao says.

Corruption often occurs because of a lack of supervision and transparency in accounting. The discipline committee of Yan'an has created a regulation that requires all account bills to be endorsed by five officials, including an accountant, a financial administrator and a discipline inspector.

Cao says more than 300,000 yuan in unqualified bills have been discovered since the regulation was implemented.

"After I became a discipline supervisor, my circle of friends became smaller. Many people do not like to come into contact with us, because they are afraid of the gossip," says Cao.

"I heard many voices of opposition after I took this job. It's a headache to deal with people who are being punished. Sometimes, I feel pressured to confront those who have higher positions than me," Cao says.

"However, I must keep the masses in my mind and uphold justice in the face of corruption," he says.

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