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Watchful Eyes

After a pilot programme of supervisory system reform in Beijing and the provinces of Zhejiang and Shanxi, a supervision system with greater scope and checks and balances will roll out nationwide

By NewsChina Updated Apr.8

On October 18, 2017, Chinese President Xi Jinping announced during the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China that the pilot programme of supervisory system reform in Beijing municipality and the provinces of Shanxi and Zhejiang would be expanded nationwide. 

In just three months, a three-level supervisory system at provincial, city and county levels has been established in 31 provinces, special economic zones and municipalities. Heads of supervision commissions at all provincial levels have assumed their posts after being selected by their respective provincial people’s congresses. 

“A national supervision law will be formulated. Supervisory commissions will be given responsibilities, powers and means of investigation in accordance with the law,” Xi said. 

During the first session of the 13th National People’s Congress on March 20, the National Supervision Law was adopted through a vote after three readings. Yang Xiaodu was elected head of the national supervisory commission that oversees local commissions at provincial, city and county levels. 

Extended Scope 

Supervision reform has been conducted to address growing anti-graft challenges, fragmented supervision authorities and weak connections between administrative and judicial agencies. The national supervision commission will be independent from other government agencies, which will oversee all people exercising public power. 

On January 18, 2017, Ren Jianhua was elected director of Shanxi provincial supervision commission, becoming the first head of China’s supervisory bodies at the provincial level. Two days later, heads of supervision commissions in Beijing and Zhejiang Province also assumed office. 
According to the draft national supervision law, supervision commissions will incorporate the existing graft-busting authorities, including supervision, discipline and corruption prevention and control agencies within the governments and prosecutorial bodies at different levels
Under the general reform guidelines, the supervision bodies will oversee all staff that hold public office or exercise public power within six corresponding administration sectors, including civil servants of Party and government organs, managerial personnel in State-owned enterprises (SOEs), State-run educational, scientific research, culture, medical, health and sports institutions, and those who provide public service as authorised by laws or regulations. 

Official statistics show that since the reform, the number of people under supervision rose from 210,000 to nearly one million in Beijing, from 785,000 to 1.32 million in Shanxi, and from 383,000 to more than 700,000 in Zhejiang.
The three areas under the pilot programme were encouraged to make experiments based on their own circumstances in order to accumulate experience for national application. These three regions have extended the supervision scope in line with their own conditions. 
On August 8, 2017, Tang Guohua, an official at the parking service centre of Xiacheng District in the city of Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, was detained. According to the draft supervision law, Tang was immune from supervision because he did not belong to any administrative sectors under supervision. He was dispatched to work for the parking service centre and exercised public power on behalf of another government agency. The supervision commission in Zhejiang, however, added staff of this category to their jurisdiction.
Tang was found to have colluded with Meng Desong, the director of the parking service centre, in embezzling State assets of 1.3 million yuan (US$205,000) and of illegally accepting bribes of 460,000 yuan (US$73,000). On September 29, the two were transferred to local prosecutors.
On December 12, 2017, the Discipline Inspection Commission of Shanxi Province released a regulation calling to systematically distinguish who should be supervised and also keep an eye on “key minorities” (people who hold minor positions but play an important role in a company, agency or institution). 
Niu Xiaoming, a senior official from the provincial disciplinary inspection agency, argued that apart from management staff at SOEs, employees who hold key positions including accountants, cashiers, inventory keepers and those who are responsible for the reviewing of contracts, bidding, or quality control should also be put under supervision. “If management staff at SOEs have been automatically referred to as leaders, there will be plenty of supervision loopholes,” he told ChinaReport.
Yin Daheng of the Loufan County disciplinary inspection department, Shanxi Province, said the county practises supervision on the basis that whether the target group exercises public power or not, they should avoid any blind spots and not extend the scope of supervision randomly. 

Checks and Balances 

Following their extended scope, supervision agencies under the pilot programme in Beijing, Shanxi and Zhejiang have restructured their existing disciplinary and anti-graft departments before establishing a checks and balances mechanism that includes offices of management, supervision, inspection and case review.
The management offices will handle tip-offs and reports, make regular updates, and oversee the entire supervision process. The supervision sectors will work routinely but not handle any specific cases. Inspection departments will file and investigate cases that are suspected of law and discipline violations. The case review departments, however, will examine holes in the evidence and unjustified claims. These separate departments are under the management of different leaders in order to prevent internal malpractice and corruption to the utmost extent.
According to He Zhigang, deputy director of the management office of Shanxi Provincial Supervision Commission, the main work of his department is sending reports and tip-offs from auditing, judicial and administrative bodies to related supervision offices. 
Niu Xiaoming told our reporter that supervision offices have to register carefully and organise internal conferences to analyze cases and deliver a report with conclusions including inquiry, preliminary verification and further investigation or settlement based on the seriousness of the case. For serious violations of disciplinary rules and duty-related crimes, a report of preliminary verification will be drafted.
Liu Xiaolin, deputy director of the third inspection office of Shanxi provincial supervision commission, told our reporter that after receiving preliminary verification reports, they will organise a special team to investigate each case. In the meantime, the provincial supervision commission will entrust a leader to be responsible for the case. 

In the process of preliminary verification, related information, including the personal data of suspects and physical evidence, has to be collected before making a preliminary judgement. If disciplinary violations or crimes are found, a file will be handed to the inspection office, which will conduct an official investigation before reporting to the case review office.
Yang Hong, head of the case review office under the Shanxi provincial supervision commission, told ChinaReport that his office serves as a watchdog in the supervision process, trying to ensure that “everybody is equal before the law and discipline, and no suspect will escape and no one is treated unjustly.”
The three pilot regions – Beijing, Zhejiang and Shanxi – established a strict internal supervision system in which supervision, inspection and case review offices performed different functions with a balance of power. The central government also required that the three regions not communicate with each other in order to prevent similar reform measures.
Within the supervision commission, a case review office plays a role similar to that of the courts, and an inspection office fulfils a role similar to the police. The management office plays the role of a prosecutors office. Supervision commissions at the county-level across the country are not divided into discipline supervision offices and discipline inspection offices.
According to Yang Hong, the separation of power also aims to give full play to the supervision role of the commission, which is the “long-term goal to deepen reform at disciplinary and supervisory bodies.” Yang argued that through routine disciplinary supervision, a great number of possible violations of law and discipline could be rooted out early on.
To date, there are eight discipline supervision offices and eight inspection offices in Beijing, seven supervision offices and six inspection offices in Zhejiang, and eight supervision offices and three inspection offices in Shanxi. 
“If discipline supervision is well implemented, the pressure on discipline inspection offices will be significantly relieved. Discipline supervision is, generally speaking, more fundamental and crucial,” Yang told ChinaReport.
Since the start of the pilot programme, more than 20 regulations on supervision, inspection, investigation and management have been rolled out in Zhejiang. In addition, 45 legal documents and 70 inspection templates have been drafted to facilitate the province’s supervision measures.
Liu Jianchao, head of Zhejiang provincial supervision commission, said that the province has given priority to handling the most noticeable problems as well as trying to establish a mechanism that works pragmatically and practically.
“It is not likely we will reach all aspects of the matter or solve all problems at the same time,” Liu told ChinaReport. “We are not going to produce an encyclopedia or volumes of clauses because that will make things even more complicated.”