Door opens on system for official residences

Updated: 2013-12-25 09:00

By Dong Fangyu (China Daily)

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The practice overseas

In foreign countries, the practice is based on transparency of information about the personal assets and salaries of senior officials. Moreover, a range of mechanisms - transparency of assets, judicial supervision and scrutiny by the public and media - provide a check on officials seeking private gain through power.

However, establishing an official residence scheme in China could prove difficult when the proposal becomes a reality. Many skeptics have claimed that it will be little more than a new way of providing perks and officials still won't be required to publicly disclose information about their personal wealth. "Who knows how many properties they already possess behind the scenes?" seems to be a common question posed on online forums.

"One prerequisite (of the proposed system) is that the property assets of officials should be made public when they are assigned a new official residence. Otherwise, the system cannot be justified to the public," said Wu from the Party School of the CPC Central Committee.

An official campaign, called "Clear House", has been implemented nationwide. A recent move came in Hubei province when 712 units of illegally occupied housing were taken back by the State, according to the provincial anti-graft authorities.

Pilot projects to promote the disclosure of officials' assets and promote clean governance have also been launched in a number of provinces, leading a district government in Chongqing municipality to disclose information on the personal assets of 128 newly promoted officials.

"Although no timetable has been set for full disclosure, officials have already been required to provide detailed, all-encompassing information about their personal assets to the Party, but not to the public", said Ma Qingyu, a professor at the Chinese Academy of Governance.

He said a highly anticipated "unified property registration system" will be launched by the middle of next year. It will allow information about officials' real estate interests to be shared via a nationwide network.

"Some officials are already ill at ease with the new leadership's strengthening of the anti-corruption campaign," he added.

In addition to the challenges regarding the disclosure of assets, the labyrinthine nature of the administration has caused many experts to doubt the feasibility of an official residence system.

"The biggest difficulty in implementing such a system lies in establishing boundaries between the different official levels and departments and deciding who is eligible for inclusion," said Ma.