Fight against corruption stepped up
The crackdown on corruption continued to intensify last year, according to data from the annual work reports of the Supreme People's Court and the Supreme People's Procuratorate, which were delivered to the top legislature early this month.
Zhao Leji, head of the Communist Party of China's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, urged the maintenance of "strictness" in the anti-corruption fight to ensure a sound political ecosystem and development environment for the implementation of the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25) when he met national political advisers on March 6.
The crackdown has resulted in five ministerial-level officials being investigated for serious disciplinary violations this year, according to the website of the country's top anti-graft watchdogs.
In the past year, procuratorial organs prosecuted about 15,350 people who were suspected of duty crimes, including 12 former ministerial-level officials. Courts nationwide concluded 22,000 cases of embezzlement, bribery and dereliction of duty involving 26,000 people, according to data from the two work reports.
Two high-level officials were given death sentences. Zhao Zhengyong, former Party chief of Shaanxi province, was sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve in August for taking bribes of more than 717 million yuan ($110 million). Lai Xiaomin, former chairman of China Huarong Asset Management, was executed in January for taking 1.79 billion yuan in bribes.
When delivering the top court's work report to the annual meeting of the National People's Congress, Zhou Qiang, its president, said those sentences demonstrated "the Communist Party of China Central Committee's firm determination to combat corruption".
"Corruption still occurs in the legal field, and some judges take bribes and bend the law for personal gain, seriously undermining the authority of the rule of law," he added.
Efforts were made to remedy legal violations by staff members in the political and legal sectors. Procuratorial organs handled more than 1,400 cases of duty crimes committed by judicial staff members last year, up 63 percent year-on-year, the reports said.
Those efforts were related to the country's crackdown on officials who acted as "protective umbrellas "for organized gangs, said Ma Qi, deputy head of the top procuratorate's general office.
"The sharp rise in the figures showed the resolution of the central leadership in building a strong law enforcement team," he said.
To pursue graft fugitives and recover illegal assets, Chinese courts worked in conjunction with other departments last year. Illegal assets totaling 1.15 billion yuan were confiscated from 164 fugitives on Interpol's Red Notice list, the top court's report said.
The country held its first trial in absentia last year, with Cheng Sanchang, former chairman of Henan Yugang Holding Group, prosecuted for taking advantage of his position to facilitate the embezzlement of more than 3.08 million yuan of public funds. He absconded abroad in 2001 and has yet to be arrested. The court has not announced its verdict.
"After the establishment of the trial system in absentia, with clear criminal facts of corruption and bribery and sufficient evidence, procuratorates can file a prosecution with the courts, which is of great significance to the pursuit of fugitives and the recovery of stolen assets," Ma said.