Bloomberg News

Xi Anti-Graft Campaign Questioned by Group After Activists Held

April 04, 2013

A U.S.-based rights group called into question Chinese President Xi Jinping’s commitment to cracking down on official graft after the detention of four activists who demanded officials disclose their assets.

Police detained the activists -- Hou Xin, Yuan Dong, Zhang Baocheng and Ma Xinli -- on March 31 after they displayed banners in public with slogans advocating asset disclosure, Human Rights Watch said. One banner said that without an end to official corruption,“the China Dream can only be daydreams,” a reference to Xi’s campaign for the country to realize the “China Dream” of national rejuvenation.

“The detention of four anti-corruption activists calls into question President Xi Jinping’s commitment to get tough on graft,” Sophie Richardson, China director at New York-based Human Rights Watch, said in a statement today. “The government’s treatment of these activists is a litmus test about whether Xi’s campaign to end China’s corruption epidemic is more than mere rhetoric and a few show cases.”

Unlike U.S. and U.K. leaders, Chinese officials are not required to make their assets public. Premier Li Keqiang said on March 17 that Chinese officials cannot accumulate fortunes and should be subject to public scrutiny.

“Since we have chosen government service we should give up all thought of making money,” Li said in Beijing at his first press conference as prime minister. “We will readily accept the supervision of all society and the media.”

Snaring Tigers

Xi said the government’s anti-corruption campaign will snare “tigers and flies,” meaning top officials and lower- level government workers. In December, a deputy Communist Party secretary in southwestern China’s Sichuan province, Li Chuncheng, was removed from his post as part of the campaign, the official Xinhua News Agency reported in December.

In June, Bloomberg News reported that the wealth of Xi Jinping’s extended family included investments in companies with total assets of $376 million; Hong Kong real estate worth $55.6 million; and an 18 percent indirect stake in a rare-earths company with $1.73 billion in assets. The New York Times reported in October that the family of outgoing Premier Wen Jiabao had controlled assets of at least $2.7 billion.

Last December, Chinese intellectuals issued an open letter calling for members of the Communist Party’s Central Committee to disclose their assets. The letter was signed by more than 7,000 people, Human Rights Watch said.

The four Beijing activists were detained for illegal assembly, the group said. Government offices were closed today for a national holiday and China’s Foreign Ministry didn’t answer a faxed request for comment.

To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Michael Forsythe in Beijing at mforsythe@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rosalind Mathieson at rmathieson3@bloomberg.net


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