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China: When will the sunshine come?

The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, the agency responsible for fighting against corruption in mainland China, announced on September 19 that all officials will be required to report their assests pertaining to housing and investments as well as children and spouse employment. This “Sunshine Act” is part of the larger anti-corruption campaign recently put forward by the Communist Party.

However, the majority of government officials resists against the Act. Southern Weekend reported that 97% of officials opposed the policy in a sample survey. Conversely, 90% of the public hoped that the policy could be introduced as early as possible.

Faced with the reality that only 3% of the surveyed officials support the anti-corruption policy, Southern Weekend askes if the public and the officials could make a compromise? There are three possible ways for implementing the Sunshine Act.

The article goes on to explore three possibilities (quoted from the English version of the Southern weekend article):

The first is an iron-fisted method favored by those who have endured corruption for a long time. From the highest officials at the center to the lowest public servant, everyone must make public a full account of one’s property down to the last cent within one day’s time. Those who have committed crimes will be punished accordingly. Those not accused of anything will receive due praise and those not suspected of any wrongdoing will be promoted.

The second method is fairly ridiculous … that if any member of the public would like to publicly declare their financial situation that is up to them, but they will pass.

The third is for those officials who have not completely lost their consciences…They can declare their financials and whatever they have illicitly squirreled away will go into the State Treasury. This is under the conditions that there will be no punishment and they will be able to continue to work for the Party and country.

The first two options represent the public and the officials’ positions respectively, while the third one is considered a compromise. The article concludes by raising a question:

Whether there is amnesty for those with illegal assets and income or we just put aside this knotty problem, it is going to be a complex political process … If the public has already seen the big picture and does not insist on using an iron fisted method, then are officials ready from this moment to begin to govern honestly?

In the comment section, some agree to compromise:

wunanwunan 28-9-2009: 我很愿意妥协,希望将来的官是清官.我们不必亡党,更不会亡国.问题是民众能妥协的标准是什么,如何知道民众那一天已经能妥协了,然后党中央开始实施阳光法.要不然就说民众一直不能妥协,阳光法也一直不必实施了!

wunanwunan 28-9-2009: I am willing to compromise and hope future officials will be clean. Our country and party don’t need to collapse. The issue is to find out when and on what basis the public is willing to compromise. If not, the CCP will use the excuse that the public is not willing to compromise and postpone the sunshine policy indefinitely.

ruolanhuakai 26-9-2009: 为了国家的前途命运着想我支持妥协方案,我们老百姓宁愿再作出一次巨大的牺牲!只是我们作出这个巨大牺牲之后真的就能换来财产公示制度的建立吗???

ruolanhuakai 26-9-2009: for the sake of our country's future, I support compromise and sacrifice our interest. However, can such sacrifice helps to establish the assets declaration system????

But it seems that there are more opinions supporting the iron hand policy:

hualinplant 26-9-2009: 不敢对贪污腐败讲认真,是对历史的不负责。旧中国都能改造成新中国,贪官问题就大的很吗?

hualinplant 26-9-2009: If we don't take corruption seriously, we are being irresponsible to the history. We can transform the old China into new China, the problem of corrupted officials shouldn't be that difficult, right?

tanzi2287216 25-9-2009: “反腐,亡党;不反腐,亡国”这话说得太对了,那么,是亡党恐怖,还是亡国恐怖。

tanzi2287216 25-9-2009: “Anti-corruption is the end of CCP; Against anti-corruption will be the end of our nation.” This statement is so accurate. The question then is whether it is more terrible to bring an end to CCP or to bring an end to our country?

yippee 25-9-2009: 现在正是考验我们党的政治智慧的时候啊。我支持铁腕方案。因为这是民意。中国共产裆一直以来的宗旨就是为人民服务,如果主子要求了,人民公仆又凭什么不同意,又怎么好意思不同意,以后还敢说“为人民服务”这五个字吗

Reader yippee 25-9-2009: This is a test on the CCP's political wisdom. I support the iron hand policy because people support it. CCP always claims that its mission is to serve the people. Now that people are making the demand, how can the public servant say no? How can they dare to use the slogan “serving the people” if they say no?

buyongzhenmingz 25-9-2009: 共 产 党要抓紧治疗自己身上的毒瘤了,不然我们只能面临再次亡国。

buyongzhenmingz 25-9-2009: CCP should treat its tumor, or our country will be doomed.

Apart from choosing between compromise and iron hand policy, some raised more fundamental issue of institutional reform:

tiger7428 25-9-2009: …我敢断言,没有真正的政治民主,既便实施,所谓的官员财产申报就只能像其它反贪招数一样是个花瓶。道理很简单“申报、公示、监督、问责这四个重要环节,最终都要靠官员来执行”,仍然是左手打右手。指望这样的一个技术性招数就能治疗“贪腐”,不过是异想天开。而官员在没有外在民众监督的情况下,在不需要向民众负责的前提下,铁腕执行,不过是回到“包青天”时代的政治理想,而这一点,历史上的“明君”已经多次证明了它的失败!

tiger7428 25-9-2009: I can assert that without democracy, the so-called asset declaration policy would look like a decorative vase even if implemented. The key processes of declaration, publicizing, supervision and accountability are at the hand of government officials. It’s like hitting one’s right hand with his left hand. It is impossible to cure corruption with such kind of procedural policy. Without public monitor and without being accountable to the people, the iron hand policy is just a return to the ancient China way of depending on the appearance of “good and righteous officials”. Our history has proved that it won't work.

919938075 25-9-2009: 古代皇帝为了让江山永固,靠多生儿子。中共为了维持执政地位,靠党员数量多。如果说党内的民主程度都不高,整个国家的民主程度会有多高?没有民主为基础,再好的想法,也只能是一厢情愿的梦话。官员们不愿为人民服务,因为人民对官员没有制约力;官员们喜欢选择性地听党的话,因为作为“家法”的党纪常常会网开一面。而在现实中,党纪比国法更全能些。所以要纠正戴志勇的说法,民众一直都在妥协,何来愿意、不愿意的选择?

919938075 25-9-2009: In ancient time, the Emperor tried to sustain his family power by giving birth to many sons. Now the CCP tries to maintain its ruling status by recruiting a large number of party members. Within the CCP, there isn't much democracy, not to mention about the country. Without the democratic system as the base of the government, any good idea will turn into dreamy talk. The reason why government officials are unwilling to serve people is because the people don't have power over the officials. On the other hand, the officials would selectively listen to the party so that the party will be lenient towards their misbehavior in its “family law”. In reality, the party rule is stricter than the government regulations, so what Dai said is not very accurate, people have been making compromise all the time, they don't have any choice.

These opinions echo with the comment made by Chinese public intellectual Ran Yun Fei:

但最重要的问题是,权力的来源、构架与运营、官员的筛选机制以及他们的权力受监督的问题,如何真正得到良好的解决。如果不能实现民众对官员真正的选举,实行民主自由的制度,那么任何官员与民众达成的妥协,都是治标不治本的暂时策略,无助于整个社会朝向可以期待的良性的发展。

The most important problem is how to solve the issues of the sources of power, mechanisms of official selection and government operation, and supervision of power. If the public election of officials and a democratic system cannot be realized, any forms of compromise will be short-term and unable to tackle the fundamental problems. This is unhelpful in directing the society in a healthy direction.

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