Xinhua Insight: Discipline watchdogs empowered for power check
                 English.news.cn | 2014-08-14 18:48:38 | Editor: Mioh Song

BEIJING, Aug. 14 (Xinhua) -- While China's widening anti-graft campaign has ended careers of some officials, it has also meant empowerment to local discipline watchdogs, giving them more say in power check.

Li Songyin, a discipline head of the Department of Justice in Hubei Province, recently gained a subtle rise in hierarch in the governing body of the provincial department.

Li used to be ranked the last in the nine-member Communist Party of China (CPC) committee of the department. The change was made in April after a provincial order requiring all disciplinary heads following only Party secretaries or deputy secretaries in ranks.

"Although it is rather symbolic or a way for others to show more respect to disciplinary officials, the hierarchical change has made some difference in a sensible way," he said.

Before the change, Li was usually the last one to speak at decision-making meetings of his department. "When we were running out of time, I did not even have chance to express my view," he said.

He also recalled sometimes a few lower-ranking officials did not take him seriously because he was seen not powerful enough.

In Chinese provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions, the key leadership is the all-powerful standing committee of the provincial-level CPC committee. The standing committee usually consist of a secretary, his or her deputy and a vice secretary, followed by other members who share the ruling power, which is often divided into sections.

Led by secretaries, such standing committee members are often ranked in accordance with the significance of their mandates. The upgrade of discipline heads in ranks has shown the CPC's resolve to overhaul rule-violating or corruptive behaviors.

Hubei was the first to implement the rank change of disciplinary officials after Wang Qishan, secretary of the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, visited the province November. During his visit he emphasized importance of reforming the disciplinary inspection system to contain the spread of corruption.

China's top leadership is determined to target both high-ranking "tigers" and low-ranking "flies" in its anti-corruption efforts. After taking the helm of the CPC in November 2012, Xi Jinping has led efforts in fighting corruption, calling on the whole Party to stay fully alert, describing corruption as a threat to the Party's very survival.

Under such circumstances, the Third Plenary Session of the 18th CPC Central Committee required innovation in the disciplinary inspection system.

Hou Chang'an, head of the Hubei provincial commission for discipline inspection, hailed the reform as morale boosting.

"Most discipline officials had low rankings in their respective teams. It rendered inspection work difficult because many people did not care about what we warned," Hou said.

Since the rank change, local disciplinary watchdogs are liberated from political limits.

"Now I feel more responsibility on my shoulders," Li said.

Following Hubei, Guangdong became the second in the country to issue in June a requirement for the rank change of disciplinary inspection officials in the CPC standing committees.

As China's anti-corruption push gains momentum, the need to improve the authority and efficiency of local discipline watchdogs has become increasingly urgent.

Another drive to empower CPC discipline watchdogs is to reduce their workload on tasks unrelated to the discipline mission.

According to a 2013 survey by the Shandong provincial commission for discipline inspection, 1,314 out of 1,801 discipline officials on the township-level were in charge of non-disciplinary affairs, while on the county-level, 73 in 137 such officials faced similar circumstances.

The "multi-tasked job" distracted them and cut efficiency, said Peng Yun, a discipline official in Guanqiao Township of Liuyang, Hunan Province. Peng was in charge of a number of non-disciplinary tasks, ranging from transportation to city planning and tourism.

"I am supposed to be a 'judge' of the game, but I have basically become a 'player' in it," Peng said, pointing out that it was inappropriate to participate in so many fields while supposedly supervising them.

Beginning this year, prefecture-level governments in provinces, including Hunan, Gansu and Shandong, have made the job of their discipline officials clear, eliminating all work other than the disciplinary supervision.

Ni Xing, deputy dean of the School of Government at Sun Yat-sen University, regarded the political changes as a sign of the CPC's determination to continue the war on corruption.

"No matter what rank they are, it is their essential role to conduct discipline inspections," Ni said.

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