Dissident supports Chinese clean-up

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The Independent Online
ONE OF China's best known anti-corruption campaigners has given an unexpected vote of support for President Jiang Zemin's crackdown on corruption.

Chen Fang, 54, was in Hong Kong yesterday to launch a book which he has been forced to publish in Hong Kong because it is banned in China. The Wrath of Heaven - The Resentment of the People is a supposedly fictional account of the downfall of the Peking Communist Party Secretary and Mayor Chen Xitong, the only member of the ruling Politburo to face a court on corruption charges since the People's Republic of China was founded.

Mr Chen's book has been banned in China, but its predecessor, The Wrath of Heaven - A Mayor's Severe Crime, managed to secure publication by an Inner Mongolian publishing house before it was withdrawn after selling 30,000 copies.

The book was also read by President Jiang, who commended it to a closed meeting of senior officials as being an accurate account description of a corrupt official.

However, his new book had to be published in Hong Kong and has been banned in advance in China. Mr Chen says this is because "corrupt officials hate me very much and still have much power in their hands to ban the book and protect their positions".

According to Mr Chen, corruption among officials has reached new levels. It is, he says, "now highly organised by organisations with a big power base".

Nevertheless, Mr Chen gives high marks to President Jiang and Premier Zhu Rongji, who have "made combating corruption a top priority in the Communist Party". He confidently expects to see the purge on corrupt officials intensify in the next six months.

Mr Chen believes that "the process of political reform in China is very fast" and says that his own freedom to speak and travel is a demonstration of how things are opening up.

Chen Xitong was recently sentenced to 16 years in jail for large-scale corruption. The punishment was considered lenient by some but, according to Mr Chen, the significance of the sentence is not its length but that "it is a sign of the rule of law, not rule by the party".

He sees this as a major departure from China's "feudal" style of rule and says it is sending a big signal to corrupt officials elsewhere.

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