Huge Number of Officials Poised to Escape China

May 29, 2012 Updated: October 1, 2015
Bo Xilai in Closing Sesson Of The Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC)
Bo Xilai was considered the first "naked official." (Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)

A greater number of elite Chinese cadres than previously thought could be considered “naked officials.” These officials move their spouse, children, other family members, and assets abroad—often to Western countries, according to a report from Hong Kong-based Trend magazine.

Around 90 percent of Central Committee members, alternate committee members, and Central Discipline Inspection Commission members have family who live or work overseas, or who live in Western countries, the publication found. Officials in these committees issued a declaration that their family members work overseas.

A document jointly issued by the aforementioned entities states all officials need to disclose their family information before July 1, according to the report, which was published April 27. If the party members fail to do so, they could face punishment.

In February, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences found that most Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials believe their family “should be able to have” permanent residence in another country. Around 75 percent of higher-ranking officials align with the “naked official” principle, a term that was outright banned in Chinese official media until 2008.

Bo Xilai, the former head of the province-level city of Chongqing who was stripped of power two months ago, is said to have been China’s first “naked official,” owning a number of properties in Hong Kong, Singapore, New York, and Vancouver.

Shi Zangshan, a Washington D.C.-based expert on Chinese politics, said the move to push the “naked officials” into disclosing their information is an order directly from Premier Wen Jiabao.

“It is obvious that Wen Jiabao is behind the Central Committee’s order to get ‘naked officials’ to report on their family situations,” Shi said. “More interesting events are sure to come.”

The news comes as more and more Chinese people have expressed their interest in the dealings of the “naked officials,” and some have pointed out that it is another facet of the CCP’s corrupt nature.

In a recent post on the Twitter-like Sina Weibo microblogging site, the netizen-led Focus News Agency sent a sarcastic message out to its 73,000 followers: “[U.S. Ambassador] Gary Locke is the only official in China whose family actually lives in China.” It was liked and forwarded more than 600 times.

Dealing With the Elite Attitude

Gan Yisheng, the vice secretary of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, stated on the Ministry of Supervision’s website last Wednesday that preventing high-level officials’ escape from China is a “long-term, complicated, and difficult” process. 

In a meeting, the Supervision Ministry ordered the building up of a security apparatus to prevent CCP officials from escaping. The apparatus would mainly target state workers whose spouses, children, or other family members are living or working abroad. 

Politburo member Xi Jinping, the presumed heir to Party leader Hu Jintao, said in a training session for ministers that most “high-level ‘naked officials’ have immediate family members with dual nationalities and spouses and relatives who are the owners or managers of businesses or state-owned enterprises enjoy preferential treatment,” according to Trend Magazine.

He added that this phenomenon leads to “squandering of funds on public transportation, food, and other expenses, which has aroused the public’s anger.”

“Current trends in society show three problems that will collapse the CCP and the nation,” he continued. “A political crisis, political instability crisis, and the crisis of the people and party.”

“Whether the crisis can be overcome depends on the strength and determination of the Party to reform itself and society’s actions.”

The Politburo reportedly discussed survey results of the large number of “naked officials” currently in the CCP. Li Yuanchao, a Politburo member and head of the Organization Department, said his department “can hardly believe the survey results, but we must face the painful truth: The situation is grim.”

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