New law to bring supervisory network against corruption

China's national legislature, scheduled to convene on March 5, will deliberate on a draft supervision law designed to lay a legal foundation for an upgraded anti-graft taskforce.

Zhang Yesui (center), spokesperson for the first session of the 13th National People's Congress, speaks during a press conference on the NPC session at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 4, 2018. The first session of the 13th NPC will open in Beijing on March 5. 

China's national legislature, scheduled to convene on March 5, will deliberate on a draft supervision law designed to lay a legal foundation for an upgraded anti-graft taskforce.

Upon adoption of the law, a new supervisory network would be established, consisting of supervisory commissions at the national, provincial, city and county levels, with legally defined duties, liabilities and protocols.

During the upcoming first session of the 13th National People's Congress, a national supervisory commission is expected to be established with a chief elected and senior officials appointed.

"The reform of China's supervisory system is aimed at enhancing the Party's unified leadership over anti-corruption campaigns and covering all state functionaries," Zhang Yesui, spokesperson for the session, said at Sunday's press conference.

The national supervisory commission is an anti-graft institution with Chinese characteristics, while the draft supervision law is an anti-graft legislation in nature, Zhang said.

"With the new law, the country will pool supervisory powers that used to be divided, and form a centralized, unified and efficient state supervisory system," said Prof Ma Huaide, vice president of the China University of Political Science and Law.

Although the legal and institutional building of this new system is still going on nationally, pilot projects tested at the local level have achieved notable progress.

Since November last year, pilot reforms of the supervisory system in Beijing, Shanxi and Zhejiang have been expanded nationwide.

Sharing offices and staff with Party disciplinary inspectors, the newly founded supervisory commissions incorporate existing supervisory, corruption prevention and control agencies within governments and procuratorates.

At the recently concluded annual legislative sessions of provincial-level people's congresses, all directors of provincial-level supervisory commissions were elected.

The first significant change after the establishment of supervisory commissions is an increase in the number of state functionaries under effective surveillance. New commissions place civil servants, staff of judicial agencies, executives of state-owned enterprises, senior staff of public institutions and mass organizations under one supervisory network.

In Beijing, one of the three localities that started the reform first, the total number of officials under supervision increased from 210,000 before the reform to 997,000 as of December last year, said Zhang Shuofu, head of the city's supervisory commission.

East China's Zhejiang Province and north China's Shanxi Province, the other two pioneer provinces, reported an increase of 83.02 percent and 67.5 percent respectively.

About 18 percent of these officials are not members of the Communist Party of China, according to Ren Jianhua, head of the Shanxi provincial supervisory commission.

"Such an extensive network leaves no loophole and serves as a powerful deterrent against corruption," said Prof Zhao Lei with the CPC Central Committee Party School.

The reform provides more institutional advantages by unifying Party and state supervisory systems.

About 770 officials who used to work for anti-corruption departments under the Beijing municipal procuratorate have been transferred to the municipal supervisory commission in the pilot reform. Instead of adding a new unit to the commission, they were assigned to different units to work with disciplinary inspectors.

"They were assigned to different posts according to their skills. We hope their experience in judicial agencies can complement the advantages of Party disciplinary inspectors," said Liu Yongqiang, a senior official with the Beijing municipal supervisory commission.

Compared with the old government supervisory departments that can investigate and impose administrative penalties, the new supervisory commissions are entitled to seize suspicious assets, freeze bank accounts and detain suspects, among other means.

The reform not only brings graft-busters more power but also regulates their power. The draft supervision law introduces a new detention system, which is designed to replace the practice of "shuanggui," an intra-party disciplinary practice exercised by Party disciplinary officials in which a CPC member under investigation must cooperate with questioning at a set time and place.

Clear protocols have been introduced to better protect the personal and property rights of those under investigation, including a three-month limit on detention, which can be doubled under "special circumstances," and notifying the family within 24 hours.

"We are very cautious of using this power," Liu said, adding that a strict procedure has been established concerning whether to detain a suspicious official.

In several cases, district supervisory commissions of Beijing tried to complete investigations without detaining suspects.

As a unified anti-graft agency under the Party's leadership, the supervisory commission is an institutional invention incorporating China's reality and international practice, Prof Ma said.

"The new supervisory system serves as an important institutional tool to realize law-based governance and modernize state governance," he said.