BEIJING—Five years into his anticorruption campaign,
is expanding Communist Party policing to millions of public servants.
In a broadening of China’s far-reaching police state, a new national agency will make virtually all government workers, from state-enterprise managers to schoolteachers, subject to the kind of murky detentions that have ensnared party officials high and low.
It will share offices, personnel and duties with the party’s existing disciplinary agency, which has punished more than 1.5 million party members in the past five years. Under its gaze, a senior party official says, the number of people subject to party supervision will more than double.
Officials say the new commission plugs gaps in government oversight. “To turn today’s crushing momentum against corruption into a crushing victory, we must further strengthen the party’s leadership,” Politburo member Yang Xiaodu said last week at China’s annual legislative session.
Entrenching the Communist Party’s political dominance has been a priority for Mr. Xi, who is steering a revamp of government agencies designed to strengthen party control over all levers of public power.
Rights advocates and law experts fear the new commission will give legal cover to the party’s policing methods, in particular a practice known as shuanggui, the indefinite detention of corruption suspects without access to a lawyer.
Court documents from cases handled by pilot commissions, set up last year at provincial and lower levels, offer a peek at how the new regime will work.
From January to August 2017, pilot commissions in Beijing, Shanxi and Zhejiang detained 183 people, some of them in party-run shuanggui facilities, according to the official Xinhua News Agency. Among those detained were a primary-school teacher and an urban-sanitation worker, both later convicted of embezzlement, court documents show.
“What is really being abolished may be the pretense of separation of party and state.” Jeremy Daum, a senior research fellow at the Yale China Law Center, wrote in a commentary after plans for the agency were announced.
Party officials say the commission’s powers are subject to legal and procedural checks that prevent abuses. Lawmakers endorsed the agency’s creation as part of constitutional amendments on Sunday that also cleared a path for President Xi’s indefinite rule and are expected to rubber-stamp a “supervision law” laying out its powers next week.
In the city of Jincheng, in Shanxi province, the Local supervisory commission detained the transportation-bureau chief, a party member, over corruption accusations at a “party-discipline education base” for about seven weeks, court documents show, before a Local court in September sentenced him to 12 years in prison. He couldn’t be reached.
A Beijing commission official told state media that after a detainee appeared unsettled by the investigation process, “we gave him psychological guidance” and tried rehabilitation by “reviewing the party oath and rousing his consciousness of the party charter.”
The detainee, 36-year-old Li Hua, pleaded guilty last June to embezzling about $1.2 million in public funds while working in the finance department of a township government, according to a document from a Beijing court, which gave him a suspended three-year jail sentence.
Mr. Li, who was expelled from the party in April, couldn’t be reached.
Officials from the party’s disciplinary apparatus have been overseeing the creation and staffing of the pilot commissions. Many observers expect the party’s disciplinary chief,
to also head the new national agency. Mr. Zhao couldn’t be reached for comment.
“Internal party supervision and state supervision are two sides of the same coin,” Xinhua said in a November report on the new supervision regime.
The pilot commissions have had a broad remit to investigate and detain government workers for graft and dereliction of duty, freeze their assets and, in some cases, mete out punishment without going through the courts.
The draft supervision law presented to lawmakers on Tuesday states that suspects can be detained in major and “complex” cases, and when there is risk of escape, suicide or obstruction of investigations. Relatives and employers should be notified within 24 hours, unless there is risk of evidence being tampered with, it said.
Detentions should be capped at three months, extendible in special cases, and interrogations should be videotaped, with suspects signing off on transcripts, it says. But the law contains no provision on access to legal counsel. In cases investigated by pilot commissions over the past year, suspects have been barred from meeting lawyers while in detention, some lawyers with knowledge of the cases say.
Neither the party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, nor regional supervisory commissions in Beijing, Shanxi and Zhejiang, responded to requests for comment.
“Interrogations aren’t just meant for investigating facts, but are also ideological and political work aimed at rescuing” suspects, said Shanxi commission investigator Zhou Yuewu in remarks published by the CCDI.
contributed to this article.
Write to Chun Han Wong at [email protected]
Source : WSJ