Chinese face a sleaze freeze

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The Independent Online
While Britain's Conservatives remain mired in sleaze allegations, there is another political party on the far side of the world which has set its sights on the moral high ground. Its 57 million members were last week given a tough warning that sexual or financial misconduct will not be tolerated, and the party will waste no time in throwing out the worst offenders.

Adultery (particularly with the spouse of a soldier), receiving a massage from a member of the opposite sex, seeing pornographic movies or publications and keeping a mistress have all been deemed against the rules for the high-minded members of the Communist Party of China (CCP). Those rules - hundreds of them in total - were printed across two full pages of China's main state-controlled newspapers.

In a one-party authoritarian state there is little scope for a "cash for questions" scandal, but China's party members have shown themselves adept at finding other lucrative pursuits. According to the rules, CCP members will be punished for using public funds to construct, buy or decorate their houses, or for playing the stockmarkets with insider information. It is also forbidden to use "unfair means" to seek foreign jaunts for one's self or family members.

The fast pace of economic reform combined with the lack of public scrutiny has created an abundance of sleaze opportunities which China's CCP members have found impossible to resist. Banqueting and visiting prostitutes at public expense, and accepting bribes for cutting bureaucratic red tape are a way of life for many party cadres.

The new "Communist Party Discipline Punishment Rules" update regulations last published in 1988. "The current struggle against corruption is very severe," said the People's Daily. It admitted that "some forms of corruption are continuously reappearing, and some are even becoming more rampant". The new regulations seem to offer just one loophole: party members, it specifies, must not hold state assets for more than six months, or borrow public funds for more than six months - providing, perhaps, a useful window of opportunity.