China’s Xi further expands power with anti-corruption body

BEIJING (AP) – Following passage of a constitutional amendment potentially making him president-for-life, China’s Xi Jinping moved to further expand his powers yesterday with the establishment of a powerful new anti-corruption agency.

The move is part of a sweeping government reorganisation aiming to boost the authority of the ruling Communist Party headed by Xi, who has firmly established himself as China’s most formidable leader since Mao Zedong, the founder of the communist state.

“This is a key part of the broader ‘party-fication’ of the state that is a major theme of the current constitutional amendments and legislative changes,” said Chinese University of Hong Kong law professor Ryan Mitchell, referring to the new anti-corruption body.

Yesterday, China’s legislature, the National People’s Congress (NPC), began a third and final reading of a draft supervision law that would extend the newly formed anti-graft body’s authority over vast numbers of workers in the public sector. State media has described the step as “aiming at a centralised, unified, authoritative and efficient supervisory network under the (Communist) Party’s leadership.”

The law would merge the party’s anti-graft watchdog body with one overseeing the civil service to form a new National Supervision Commission, defined as a political body independent of the Cabinet, courts and prosecutors, raising fears of political abuse.

The body will have the right to detain suspects for up to six months without seeking a judge’s permission. Authorities must inform the suspect’s family and work unit of their detention within 24 hours, except in cases where evidence might be destroyed or the investigation otherwise impeded, according to a text of the draft law.

Chinese President Xi Jinping. – AP

Other details, such as where suspects will be held, who will be responsible for their welfare and what form of legal representation they will be permitted, had not been announced.

Also yesterday, the congress began a review of a major reorganisation of government agencies, including the establishment of a Ministry of Veteran’s affairs to oversee the welfare of China’s millions of retired soldiers.

The government reorganisation follows Sunday’s passage of a constitutional amendment abolishing term limits, allowing Xi to rule for as long as he wishes.

In introducing the supervision law, the vice chairman of the NPC’s Standing Committee, Li Jianguo, described it as an “important measure in consolidating the steps taken by party centre to deepen reform of supervisory system”.

The bill will establish supervisory commissions at the national, provincial, city and county levels, overseeing public servants working in the party and government bureaucracy, state-owned enterprises, research institutes and educational, medical, cultural and athletic bodies. In Beijing alone, a pilot programme instituted last year quadrupled the numbers under scrutiny to almost one million.

The commission also replaces the party’s previous procedure for investigating corruption suspects known as “shuang gui”.

“Replacing ‘shuang gui’ with rigorously regulated detention will help settle a long-lingering legal problem,” Li told the NPC’s almost 3,000 delegates. “This has displayed our resolve and confidence to realise a full, law-based governance.”