China comes down hard
on corrupt officials

A Communist Party of China (CPC) chief has warned fellow cadres and government officials of "holiday corruption" -- bribes disguised as "traditional holiday gifts".

"Holiday corruption has seriously hampered economic development and the building of harmonious society," said Xu Guangchun, secretary of the Henan Provincial Committee of the CPC.

Xu cited the case of a county official who took bribes totaling 823,000 yuan (103,000 U.S.dollars) on Spring Festival and Mid-autumn Festival over five years.

Luan Weidong was found taking the bribes from his subordinates and business leaders from 1999 to 2004 when he served as head of Xihua County of Henan.

Luan's defence was that taking money on holidays was a Chinese tradition.

"I have to send back the same or more on weddings, funerals or other festival occasions," Che said.

Lawyer Qin Sankuan said it was difficult to prove the practice was "holiday bribery" as bribe givers did not seek immediate reciprocity, but viewed the "gifts" as long-term "investments".

However, people who gave large sums would almost definitely ask for something for return, Qin said.

Zhao Sihai, a local company head, confessed that he had given Luan 130,000 yuan on Spring Festivals from 1999 to 2003, which had "functioned well" in helping Zhao benefit illegally from Luan's official authority.

Yang Hongchao, a law professor at Henan Agricultural University, said the government should draft regulations to crack down on "holiday corruption" and build mechanisms to monitor officials in places like entertainment venues. This year's Spring Festival falls on Feb. 18.

Wang Zhaoyao, former deputy chairman of Anhui Provincial Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, was sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve for corruption charges early this month.

Wang abused his office to take bribes of 7.04 million yuan (891,000 U.S. dollars) and failed to account for property worth 6.5 million yuan (800,000 U.S. dollars), some of which was acquired during Spring Festivals from 1993 to 1998.

Altogether 67,505 government officials have been punished for corruption since 2003, with more than 17,505 prosecuted and sentenced in the first eight months of 2006.

President Hu Jintao said last month that efforts were being made "to improve the rule of law and create a culture of clean and honest government, while strengthening the supervision of power".

China has set up anti-graft bureaus in procuratorates, and employs 36,000 people in its anti-corruption efforts.

Source: Xinhua