Corrupt officials are a big headache for the Chinese Communist Party. They drain the country of money and then escape abroad with their booty. The phenomenon is so pervasive there is even a term to describe them: “naked officials,” so called because they send their wife and kids overseas while they’re alone in China amassing wealth.
The party employs measures to keep officials in check. In June, Radio Free Asia reported that the CCP issued a travel ban for all government officials. Previously, officials at the deputy department level and above could apply for travel a year in advance, but this exception would no longer be allowed.
In past years, the regime has resorted to confiscating officials’ passports in an effort to deter them from running off.
The United States and Canada are among the most popular destinations for corrupt officials, given that they have first-class higher education, a clean environment, robust legal system—and most critically, the two countries have not signed an extradition treaty with China.
By the regime’s own estimates, the number of officials’ escaping is huge. In a widely cited 2012 report by Boxun, an overseas Chinese-language news website, a Beijing source leaked an internal survey conducted by the CCP’s disciplinary department, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, revealing that 76.77 percent of delegates in the People’s Political Consultative Conference have foreign passports, compared with 57.47 percent of delegates in the National People’s Congress. The two organizations are the CCP’s showcase, rubber-stamp deliberative bodies.
In total, that amounts to 84.35 percent of high-level officials (at the bureau level and above) who have foreign passports. The survey also estimated that among the corrupt officials being investigated by the disciplinary body in 2010, the amount of capital they transferred abroad was worth 237.8 billion yuan (approximately US$35 billion).
For as long as the political and economic future of China remains uncertain and unstable, fleeing officials will continue to be a problem for the regime.
Annie Wu contributed to this report.