March 12, 2017 10:00 pm JST

China legal chiefs vow to continue anti-corruption campaign

New record in graft cases last year with 63,000 investigated

CHENG TING-FANG, Nikkei staff writer

China shows no sign of relenting on its anti-corruption campaign, which has ensnared thousands of government officials. (Photo by Akira Kodaka)

BEIJING -- China's chief justice and top prosecutor have both affirmed Sunday that authorities will show zero tolerance toward corrupt officials and pledged to continue the country's far-reaching anti-graft crusade.

Initiated by President Xi Jinping after he took office in 2013, China's anti-corruption campaign shows no signs of abating after charges hit a new high last year.

The sweeping crackdown has proceeded amid speculation that the Chinese leader may further consolidate his power using corruption charges to sideline or subdue political rivals. Xi is widely believed to be delaying the designation of his successor as president in order to remain in office beyond the standard 10 year term.

Supreme People's Court chief Zhou Qiang told a session of the National People's Congress that China's courts heard some 45,000 corruption cases involving 63,000 people last year. A total of 2,862 people had been convicted.

That compared to some 34,000 corruption cases, involving 49,000 people, brought before the courts in 2015.

While many of the 47,650 officials investigated in 2016 were lower-level bureaucrats, 48 of those indicted held posts at the ministerial level or higher, compared with 22 the year before.

Cao Jianming, chief of the Supreme People's Procuratorate, told the same session of congress Sunday that China's top prosecution agency would continue investigating cases of graft at the highest levels.

"We will not stop our pursuit of tigers," he said, referring to a common epithet for powerful officials. "We will never loosen our grip to beat corruption, as we have no tolerance for such incidents."

Last year saw the prosecution of a number of prominent officials.

They included former top People's Liberation Army general Guo Boxing, and Ling Jihua and Su Rong, two ex-vice chairmen of China's top political advisory body, the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.

All three were sentenced to life after their graft convictions.

More than 66% of the more than 47,000 officials probed by China's prosecutors last year were related to corruption and bribery, according to Cao.

Some 10,472 officials were investigated for accepting bribes in 2016, down from 13,210 in a year ago, while 7,375 officials were investigated for offering bribes, compared with 8,217 in 2015.

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