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China Daily Website

Local officials' grip on power loosened

Updated: 2013-11-27 01:21
By Jiang Xueqing, Zhao Xu and Wang Shanshan in Beijing ( China Daily)

The Chinese leadership has listed combating the abuse of power as a priority of its reforms.

The problem has become such a cause for public and governmental concern that the leadership has decided to tighten restrictions on, and supervision of, the exercise of power by leading officials.

The decision was taken during the Third Plenum of the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, held from Nov 9 to 12.

The issue attracted worldwide attention during the trial of Bo Xilai, former Party secretary of Chongqing. On Sept 22, Bo was sentenced to life in prison after being found guilty of accepting bribes, embezzlement and abuse of power.

The trial, one of the nation's highest-profile events in recent years, brought the career of an apparent rising star to a grinding halt.

"Local Party secretaries have enjoyed an amazingly high level of power for many years," said Yan Jirong, a professor at Peking University's School of Government.

"As kings of their own realms, they control all the local authority organs, including the People's Congress, the police, the courts, the procuratorator's office and the financial and personnel departments.

"These organs help Party secretaries achieve their goals, but if they make a terrible blunder, nobody will correct their mistakes at the local level."

For Fang Ning, director of the Institute of Political Science at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, the government's move is overdue.

"In the past, we rarely talked about the restriction of power, although we had a lot of discussions about the supervision of power. The supervision of power comes from outside the core government and usually focuses on the integrity of officials. However, there is limited supervision of government actions. Very few checks are made to ensure the government doesn't overstep the mark in terms of certain policies and behavior. However, the government shares so little information with the public that it's difficult to ascertain whether that's the case or not. We need to divide power rationally within the Party and allow the different organs of authority to restrain one another," he said.

The CPC, which has ruled the country since 1949, has acknowledged public opinion and is attempting to rectify the situation by dividing power into three categories: Decision making; policy implementation; and government supervision, said Fang.

Investigations impeded

To restrict power more effectively, top leaders will restructure the system to allow local commissions for discipline inspection to work more independently.

The CPC Central Committee will appoint discipline inspectors directly to local commissions. Major inspectors will be selected by a high-level commission that will lead investigations into allegations of corrupt conduct involving local officials.

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