China's new super anti-graft body will have formidable powers

BEIJING (The Straits Times/ ANN) - The draft bill giving formidable powers to China's newly created "super" anti-graft agency will be put to vote on March 20.

China's newly created "super" anti-graft agency will have formidable powers under a draft Bill which went through its third reading in the National People's Congress (NPC) or Parliament on Tuesday.

The new National Supervision Commission - formed from the merger of the Chinese Communist Party's (CCP) feared anti-graft watchdog and various supervision and corruption control departments - will have oversight of all government employees and CCP members. It will have the power to conduct searches, seize property and freeze assets, as well as detain suspects for up to six months as part of corruption investigations.

The draft law was read a day after a constitutional amendment created the commission and designated it as a new state organ, ranked alongside the central government and above the judiciary, accountable to the NPC.

The new law would enhance the leadership of the CCP on anti-corruption campaigns, said NPC vice-chairman Li Jianguo. "In the face of a tough and complicated situation, our existing supervisory institutions were clearly unable to meet the demands of the battle against corruption and the campaign to clean up the party," he said.

Under China's current system, the party's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) has wide latitude to investigate CCP members, and government supervisory agencies watch over civil servants while the procuratorates investigate and prosecute cases.

He also added that with 80 per cent of civil servants and 95 per cent of leading officials being CCP members, it was "inevitable" that China had sought to harmonise party and state supervision.

Mr Li said a key reason for the new law was that it would codify the methods and powers that could be used during an investigation, replacing the "long-lingering legal problem" of shuanggui used by the CCDI. Shuanggui allowed for indefinite detention of a party member being investigated for corruption, with reports alleging torture and other harsh treatments being used to extract confessions.

The new supervision law states that detention can be used only in specific conditions, such as if the case is "complicated" or if the suspect is a flight risk. Other safeguards include that all interrogations must be recorded and that in most cases, family members must be informed within 24 hours of the detention.

The director of the supervision commission also cannot serve for more than two five-year terms, and cannot concurrently be on the NPC Standing Committee.

The draft will be put to a vote as a matter of formality on March 20, the last day of NPC meetings, and should pass.


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