A measure to combat corruption is being tried in southern China, but critics say it falls short of what the public has been calling for.
State-run media reported the new measures on Tuesday (January 29). China Daily cited Wang Xingning, the deputy secretary of Guangdong Provincial Party Commission for Discipline Inspection.
Starting after Chinese New Year, which falls on on February 10th, officials in three regions in Guangdong will have to declare their personal assets.
The catch is, the information will only be available to other officials, via the government's intranet. In other words, the public is no closer to seeing just exactly how much Communist officials make, or own.
[Wang Beiji, Chinese Democracy Activist]:
"Even if the assets are declared, the authenticity still needs to verified by independent media and judiciary. But the Communist Party has showed an unwillingness to do it, and uses a trick of internal asset declaration. This is nothing but self-deception."
The assets that will need to be declared internally include officials' salaries, bonuses, real estate holdings and investment.
The rules only cover the officials themselves. This would fail to expose cases where an official uses aliases, or register property under their family members.
[Mr. Cai, President of a State-Owned Enterprise in Guangzhou]:
"Many officials have multiple identities. Their properties actually aren't under their own names, so there's no way to verify and confirm as a watchdog. There's no substantive meaning for such internal asset declarations."
Calls to fight corruption have been high, from both top Chinese leaders and ordinary citizens.
Fed up with a perceived lack of action from Communist officials, netizens have put their own investigative skills to use—with what's known as a "human flesh search." This has led to online exposés of officials dubbed "House Sisters" and "Watch Uncles." These are individuals found to have assets or possessions way above their pay grades.
While some, like senior Guangdong official Fan Songqing, have welcomed the asset disclosure rules, others have complained that they amount to a violation of their personal privacy.
But even under the current rules, Guangdong officials will be assured that what they do declare will only be seen by others officials. No timeframe has been announced as to when the public will be able to access the information.
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