Amid praise for China’s Communist Party and the government’s work report is an increasingly common complaint from delegates to annual parliamentary meetings – too much red tape and corruption.
The parallel convening of China’s parliament and its main advisory body is usually a tightly scripted series of meetings meant to show unity and how China is tackling its many issues.
But at this year’s gatherings of the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, grousing over administrative headaches and bribery in order to do business has risen in volume.
“We are helpless when faced with such complicated regulatory approval procedures,” said Li Shufu, chairman of automotive group Geely, which owns Swedish brand Volvo.
Li, a delegate to the NPC, noted an “important speech” by a senior leader that opposed behavior that interferes with market-oriented economic activities.
“But I think regulatory approval, by its nature, has interfered with normal market and economic activities,” Li said.
Chinese as well as foreign companies face multiple approvals to expand operations, or pursue mergers and acquisitions and other corporate strategy, including permission from the Commerce Ministry, Finance Ministry, National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), State Administration of Foreign Exchange and other panels, depending on the industry.
Attempts by both Chinese and foreign enterprises to do business in China have been thwarted by the number of hoops through which to jump and the time needed to complete them all.
Then there’s the bribery.
“The NDRC and other ministries are given the power for approvals so that only a handful of people manage the whole country,” said Zong Qinghou, founder and chairman of drinks company Wahaha, and one of China’s wealthiest individuals.
“There have been people who have gone to those ministries to hand over money because they need to get approvals,” said Zong, who is also an NPC delegate.
“I think this is a big problem that has affected our country’s economic development, and has also led to corruption.”
Comments by Li, Zong and others were reported by Chinese media. Delegates have likely been emboldened to speak out by increased talk by China’s leadership to crack down on the crookedness that pervades the country, from getting in to see a doctor more quickly to lining officials’ pockets for favors.
Lai Ming, president of the Jiusan Society, one of China’s non-communist political parties, said he also faults the convoluted bureaucracy.
“The need for too many complicated, opaque bureaucratic approvals is an important source of corruption,” said Lai, a CPPCC delegate. “China’s reform of bureaucratic approvals and self-restriction on power is an arduous task. We cannot be soft in cracking down on such vested interests.”
Prosecutors have investigated 30 officials at the ministerial level or higher for corruption over the past five years, Procurator General Cao Jianming reported on Sunday, according to the government-run news agency Xinhua.
Also on Sunday, China unveiled a plan to cut cabinet-level entities by two and dissolve its powerful Railways Ministry in a bid to boost efficiency and combat corruption.
Land grabs by local governments are another sore point brought up by at least one delegate.
“If I bump into the premier, I will say, ‘(if you) want to rein in housing prices, (you should) first rein in the government’,” said Huang Wenzai, chairman of property developer StarRiver and a CPPCC delegate.
“The government has been selling land at hefty prices so naturally housing prices will be high,” Huang said.
Source: “China parliament delegates speak out against corruption, red tape”
Petition addressed to NPC ahead of annual session calls for adherence to international agreement, which Beijing signed in 1998
More than 120 influential scholars, lawyers and journalists have signed a petition urging the National People’s Congress to ratify an international human rights treaty, as part of the leadership’s pledge to promote constitutional rights and the rule of law.
The petition, addressed to the NPC Standing Committee ahead of the NPC’s annual session beginning next week, calls for the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to be ratified “as soon as possible”.
“There is still a substantial gap between the situation in China with respect to human rights and rule of law and the requirements of international human rights treaties … but now is the best time for our country to ratify the treaty,” the letter said.
Signatories include scholars Qin Hui, Yu Jianrong and He Weifang, liberal Communist Party veterans He Fang and Feng Lanrui, and rights lawyers Pu Zhiqiang and Xu Zhiyong .
They said they feared a society that did not value human rights or individual freedoms would plunge into “hatred and violence, division and hostility” if crises erupted.
The ICCPR is part of the International Bill of Human Rights. China signed the ICCPR in 1998 but has not ratified it.
The covenant commits its parties to respecting civil and political rights, including freedom of speech, religion and assembly and rights to a fair trial.
Professor Li Gongming , a Guangzhou-based commentator who signed the petition, said it was in the spirit of a recent push for rule of law and constitutional government by Communist Party chief Xi Jinping.
“In light of the leadership stressing that the country should be governed under the constitution and with the rule of law, I think ratification is a reasonable step,” Li said.
The petition is part of increasingly bold calls from intellectuals for political openness and government transparency. In December, dozens of scholars and lawyers urged the party’s new leaders to push ahead with political reform. Even more called on officials to disclose their family assets.
The petition said human rights were not just Western imports, but were ideals that the party itself had aspired to since its early days. The Chinese constitution says citizens enjoy freedom of the press, speech, assembly and association, and the right to demonstrate.
Professor Zhang Ming , a political scientist at RenminUniversity and a signatory, said he was sceptical about whether the new leadership would be willing to implement the necessary changes to conform to the treaty’s requirements. “The ‘stability maintenance’ regime has not ended, but then you can’t not call for ratification to happen.”
Xu Youyu, a retired professor at the China Academy of Social Sciences who is also a signatory, said: “It’s a matter of whether those in power genuinely want to safeguard human rights or not. If you want to, then you should ratify as soon as possible.”
Many copies of the open letter posted on mainland websites have been deleted.
Source: SCMP “Petition urges NPC to ratify human rights treaty”