The Chinese Communist Party is trying to stop the hemorrhage of high-level officials to other countries, often with large sums of cash, that has taken place in the past several years.
A political commentator suggested that the move might be linked to the case against ousted Chinese leader Bo Xilai and the upcoming 18th National Party Congress next month.
These so-called “naked officials” have immediate family members living in other countries with some even having obtained foreign citizenship, and have moved their assets abroad, poising to leave China when the time is right.
It was reported earlier this year by Hong Kong’s Trend magazine that around 90 percent of members of the Central Committee members, alternate committee members, and Central Discipline Inspection Commission have family who live or work overseas, or who just live abroad. These officials had to issue a statement that they have family who live or work overseas. The 90 percent figure could not be verified.
The Central Committee of the Communist Party and the State Council are looking to put an end to the phenomenon or at least greatly curb it.
A report on Sept. 22 from Trend said that Vice-Premier Li Keqiang, a member of the top policymaking Politburo Standing Committee, set up a temporary task force to crack down on “naked officials” who are seeking to leave China with their assets. Organization Department chief Li Yuanchao, Minister of the Public Security Meng Jianzhu, and Communist Party General Office Director Li Zhanshu are reportedly overseeing the task force.
Around 8,000 special police and over 350 new “anti-counterfeiting instruments” were deployed to key airports, border checkpoints, and ports that Communist Party officials might use to leave the country. The Ministry of Public Security also renewed ID cards, passports, and entrance and exit documents for more than 70,000 senior cadres and nearly 450,000 county-level cadres in the past two months, according to the publication.
Political commentator Xing Tianxing told NTD Television, an independent and mostly Chinese language broadcaster, that the directive issued last month suggests that security is tightening around the upcoming 18th National Party Congress, which will be held in November and is the time when the old guard of Communist Party officials transfers power to the new leaders. Premier Wen Jiabao and leader Hu Jintao will step down and others will take their spot.
Xing said the new crackdown on “naked officials” might also be in response to the Party’s corruption case against Bo Xilai, the ousted leader of Chongqing who faces an upcoming trial on charges ranging from corruption, abuse of power, and covering up his wife Gu Kailai’s murder of British businessman Neil Heywood.
“People involved in Bo’s case might attempt to flee China,” Xing told the broadcaster over the weekend, “this measure will deter some of them.”
Though the term “naked official” may sound amusing, it is no laughing matter for the Communist Party.
Between 16,000 and 18,000 Party officials took 800 billion yuan ($128 billion) after they fled China or simply went missing, according to a People’s Bank of China study on the topic. Another researcher, Li Chengyan of Peking University, said that around 10,000 Party officials left China with a trillion yuan ($160 billion), averaging out to around $16 million per official.
“In many cases, one single corrupt official fled with several hundred million yuan. This shows there is significant corruption plaguing China,” Li told the Economic Weekly.
In the case of Bo, it was reported earlier this year by the Japan-based Asahi Shimbun newspaper that Gu Kailai was suspected of illegally transferring around $6 billion overseas.
Jack Phillips contributed research.
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Editor’s Note: When Chongqing’s former top cop, Wang Lijun, fled for his life to the U.S. Consulate in Chengdu on Feb. 6, he set in motion a political storm that has not subsided. The battle behind the scenes turns on what stance officials take toward the persecution of Falun Gong. The faction with bloody hands—the officials former CCP head Jiang Zemin promoted in order to carry out the persecution—is seeking to avoid accountability for their crimes and to continue the campaign. Other officials are refusing any longer to participate in the persecution. Events present a clear choice to the officials and citizens of China, as well as people around the world: either support or oppose the persecution of Falun Gong. History will record the choice each person makes.