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China Letter-News and Human Rights

China human rights news with focus on the Uygur of Xinjiang, Tibetans and Tibet, Chinese mining workers, religion, corruption and censorship.

Friday, May 28, 2004

Culture of responsibility: Welcomed progress

China cleans up job-related human rights violations.



If anything can be said about the Chinese government it is that they know how to make all the right noises. The problem however most of the time it seems is in turning words into action.

One particular "noise" they have been making of late is the drive to make government and party officials more accountable for their acts or omissions.

It has been apparent for a long time that Chinese officialdom runs on the premise of all rights and no responsibility. In other words they enjoy wielding power but if something goes wrong than it is always the other person's or other department's responsibility. Buck passing is a time honored profession and one well honed among Chinese bureaucracy.

Of late however it appears that words are actually being translated into actions. The last several months have witnessed a drive by the central government to inject responsibility and accountability into China's government agencies and officials.

Firstly, the government would appear, publicly at least, to be attempting to create a culture of personal responsibility where officials guilty of oversight or dereliction of duty choose to take the honorable way out and "falling on their swords" by resigning. Unlike before when if anyone were to fall it would be some poor underling now, like western convention, the number one person is expected to resign for failings within his organisation.

Secondly, the government has increasingly announced new measures of government oversight and has shown a willingness to bring miscreants to task. Most recently, for example, it has announced the setting up of a "database" of personal details of judges, tracking such things as investments, incomes even marital status. The idea is that by doing so those judges guilty of corruption, career aggrandisement or even with a susceptibility to "sexual seduction" can easily be found or at least be aware that they are being scrutinised.

As a result of these type of actions several high profile people have been charged in the criminal system for either corruption or dereliction of duty including ex provincial governors.

Recently China was stunned by the "Baby powder" scandal in which thirteen infants in Anhui died of nutritional deficiencies from consuming substandard milk powder and 171 infants suffered from malnutrition after being fed with milk powder deficient in protein and other nutrients as a result of contaminated bay powder formula.

The linked article at China Daily reports that two officials involved in the scandal have been caught in the government net:

"Two officials involved in the notorious fake milk powder case in Fuyang City, east China's Anhui Province, were recently put into custody for dereliction of duty, marking a resolute step in the country's one-year fight against human rights violation crimes by government officials."


On Wednesday Wang Zhenchuan, deputy procurator-general of the Supreme People's Procuratorate (SPP), announced that procuratorates at all levels will launch a sweeping one-year investigation into job-related crimes of infringing on human rights.

China Daily further reports:

'"Negligence of duty which causes great losses of people's lives and assets is one of the campaign's major targets," Wang said, adding the goal of the campaign is to fulfill the commitment of " respect and protection of human rights" enshrined in the Constitution and to defend basic benefits of the masses.'

Any moves towards providing greater transparency of government processes and decision making, proper management and oversight and inculcation of the ethic of professional responsibilty can only be of huge benefit to the human rights situation in China.

Whilst it is too early to asses how successful this campaign will be in the long term initial indications are quite positive that words, in this instance at least, can be translated into actions.

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China Daily NewsChina cleans up job-related human rights violations