In September 2015, Liu Jianchao, China’s former assistant Foreign Minister, was appointed as deputy head of the National Bureau of Corruption Prevention. That puts Liu, the first diplomat to take the post, in charge of China’s ongoing international hunt for corrupt officials.
The 53-year-old Liu, a graduate of the University of Oxford, served previously as deputy-general of the information department of the foreign ministry and ambassador to the Philippines and Indonesia.
Zhang Xixian, a professor from the Party School of the CPC Central Committee, commented during an interview with The Global Times: “China needs people who are familiar with diplomacy to better cooperate with other countries in its global hunt for fugitives, and Liu’s diplomatic background suits this need.”
In January, NewsChina interviewed Liu on the ongoing campaign on the repatriation of fugitive officials and the recovery of illegal assets.
NewsChina: Can you explain the mechanisms of the Global Hunt for Corruption Fugitives Office (GHCFO)?
Liu Jianchao: The setting up of the GHCFO by the National Bureau of Corruption Prevention and the provincial level coordination system have effectively connected different resources and shifted us away from the previously chaotic management of the issue.
The International Cooperation Bureau under the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) is the coordinating department for the GHCFO, responsible for making guidelines, supervising and connecting the different departments involved.
NC: What’s the key issue in fugitive repatriation and asset recovery?
LJC: International repatriation depends on a clear listing and categorization of detailed information about the fugitives. It was previously unclear just how much these corrupt officials had stolen. Since the 18th CPC National Congress was held in 2012, a reporting system and database of official fugitives was gradually set up nationwide, with timely updates and dynamic management of information. This database covers everything from the central government to local counties.
We’ve deeply analyzed some key cases to try and find the general patterns of fugitives, in the hope of enhancing preventative measures. But at the same time, we’ve been trying to find the loopholes in existing management and supervision systems, so as to reform systems and mechanisms, and furthermore enhance construction of the system.
NC: What’s been done to strengthen preventative measures?
LJC: Prevention is more important than cure; there’s no point closing the stable door after the horse has bolted. So while we’re widening our net overseas, we’re also damming the flow of corruption at home. A strict management system of officials’ passports, as well as examination and approval on their overseas visits has thus been set up. Officials whose direct family members have settled down in other countries are under special supervision. Many different departments are working together to analyze this information and make sure nothing slips past us.
We also conduct actions against money laundering, such as cutting off the outflow channels for money transfers and freezing corrupt officials’ domestic assets.
Since 2014, China has snared a total of 2,442 fugitives in its global hunt, with 397 being Party members or government officials. We’ve recovered a total of over 8.5 billion yuan (US$1.24 bn). From January to November 2016, a total of 908 fugitives were repatriated, including 122 CPC members and officials and a total of more than 2.3 billion yuan (US$330 million) recovered in assets.
Thanks to all this, more and more officials have stopped trying to hide overseas and voluntarily surrendered themselves back in China.
NC: Since China has a radically different legal system from other countries, what kind of cooperation systems have been set up between China and other countries on fugitive repatriation and asset recovery?
LJC: International cooperation on the anti-corruption campaign include legislation, jurisdiction and law enforcement. Due to different historical and cultural backgrounds, different countries enjoy different legal systems. The nations that have set up extradition treaties with China are mostly developing countries. However corruption fugitives often escape to tax havens, most of which are developed countries. Therefore, we need to set up communication mechanisms with foreign countries, so as to deliver our opinion, seek support and minimize differences.
So far China has participated in 15 global and regional anti-corruption cooperation mechanisms and has set up anti-corruption relationships with some 89 countries across the world. In 2016, China signed financial information exchange and cooperation agreements with over 40 countries. In particular, the Sino-US anti corruption law implementation cooperation mechanism is one of the most effective measures yet introduced. A special contact team between the two countries has been set up aiming to tackle some individual cases and introduce joint measures. In September 2016, China and Canada signed an agreement on the returning and sharing of confiscated money and agreed to consider a bilateral extradition treaty in the perceivable future.
Additionally, China has active bilateral communications with other countries across the world.
NC: Is this a foreign or a domestic issue?
LJC: Foreign affairs are really the extension of domestic affairs, especially this anti-corruption campaign. Now, whenever President Xi Jinping or other top Chinese officials visit other countries, either on bilateral or multilateral occasions, they arrange negotiations with other leaders on exploring the possibility of international cooperation on anti-corruption topics. China is seeking an active role in promoting new systems of global anti-corruption.
Various government departments are also taking actions in speeding up the signing of extradition treaties, relative jurisdiction treaties, and other issues.
NC: What was China’s role in promoting the G20 High-Level Principles on Cooperation on Persons Sought for Corruption and Asset Recovery at the G20 Summit Meeting held in Hangzhou last September?
LJC: China has been actively implementing the United Nations Convention against Corruption and promoted the passing of an anti-corruption declaration signed by APEC members at the Beijing APEC summit meeting in November 2014.
In 2016, using the occasion of chairing the G20 anti-corruption workforce, China drafted and promoted the passing of the High-Level Principles on Cooperation on Persons Sought for Corruption and Asset Recovery as well as the 2017-2018 G20 Anti-Corruption Action Plan. Furthermore, China also set up a G20 anti-corruption fugitive repatriation and asset recovery institute inside the country.
China has shown its dedication in combating corruption to the whole world through its efficient efforts in the recent few years. A new international cooperation system on the anti-corruption campaign advocated by China is gradually being developed.