China releases draft law to expand power of new anti-graft body

A Chinese flag flies in front of the Great Wall of China, located north of Beijing
A Chinese flag flies in front of the Great Wall of China, located north of Beijing August 18, 2007. REUTERS/David Gray

November 6, 2017

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s legislature on Monday released the first public draft of a law giving a nascent super-ministry powers to detain, investigate and punish public servants, widening President Xi Jinping’s signature war on graft.

A National Supervision Commission that combines several anti-graft bodies, set to be launched next year, will spearhead Xi’s campaign and expand its scope beyond the ruling Communist Party to any civil servant.

At last month’s five-yearly party congress, Xi pledged to continue the campaign to root out deep-seated corruption in the party, which has ensnared more than 1.3 million officials.

The public has a deadline of Dec. 5 to comment on the draft, but the largely rubber-stamp legislature did not say when the final law would be implemented.

The new commission will be empowered to investigate, interrogate and detain government workers, besides freezing their assets and seizing property, the draft released by the parliament, the National People’s Congress, shows.

The new law would further centralize the power of anti-graft investigations and apply to bureaucrats, including teachers at government schools and managers at state-owned enterprises.

The draft gave new details of a detention system to replace a controversial practice of questioning suspects at undisclosed sites without legal representation, known as “shuanggui”, which rights activists say carries the threat of torture and abuse.

The new measures can be used when the case is “major” or “sensitive”, when a subject is at risk of fleeing or suicide, when there is danger of collusion or evidence tampering or other forms of obstruction to the investigation, the draft said.

Detained suspects must sign off on all confessions and their family or work unit should be notified within 24 hours, it added, with a three-month limit on the interrogation that can be doubled in “special circumstances”, which it did not specify.

The draft includes measures to monitor the finances of those suspected of graft, to avoid their fleeing overseas.

Separately, the Party’s official People’s Daily on Monday provided frontpage details of trial commissions launched in January in the capital, Beijing, and the eastern province of Zhejiang and northern Shanxi.

In Zhejiang, the commission handled than 24,000 cases from January to August, more than double the number handled by the authorities during the year-ago period, Xinhua said.

In Shanxi, the total number of people overseen by anti-graft authorities jumped to 530,000 from 131,500, it said.

(Reporting by Christian Shepherd and Beijing newsroom; Editing by Tony Munroe)