President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign stood to gain a major boost as China’s ceremonial legislature moved Tuesday to establish a powerful new agency with authority over vast numbers of workers in the public sector.
The National People’s Congress began a third and final reading Tuesday of the draft supervision law described by state media as “aiming at a centralized, unified, authoritative and efficient supervisory network under the (Communist) Party’s leadership.”
The law would merge the party’s anti-graft watchdog body with one overseeing the civil service to form a new National Supervision Commission, defined as a political body independent of the Cabinet, courts and prosecutors, raising fears of political abuse.
The body will have the right to detain suspects for up to six months without seeking a judge’s permission. Authorities must inform the suspect’s family and work unit of their detention within 24 hours, except in cases where evidence might be destroyed or the investigation otherwise impeded, according to a text of the draft law.
Other details, such as where suspects will be held, who will be responsible for their welfare and what form of legal representation they will be permitted, have not been announced.
Also Tuesday, the congress known as the NPC began a review of a major reorganization of government agencies, including the establishment of a Ministry of Veteran’s affairs to oversee the welfare of China’s millions of retired soldiers.
Veterans who served as far back as the 1950-53 Korean War have staged sporadic street protests, including in Beijing, demanding higher pensions and improved benefits. Currently, local governments are placed in charge of veteran’s welfare, creating huge inequalities in services and compensation across the country.
In introducing the supervision law, the vice chairman of the NPC’s Standing Committee, Li Jianguo, described it as an “important measure in consolidating the steps taken by party center to deepen reform of supervisory system.”
The bill will establish supervisory commissions at the national, provincial, city and county levels, overseeing public servants working in the party and government bureaucracy, state-owned enterprises, research institutes and educational, medical, cultural and athletic bodies. In Beijing alone, a pilot program instituted last year quadrupled the numbers under scrutiny to almost 1 million.
The commission also replaces the party’s previous procedure for investigating corruption suspects known as “shuang gui” whose opaque nature led to frequent allegations or torture, forced confessions and other abuses.
“Replacing ‘shuang gui’ with rigorously-regulated detention will help settle a long-lingering legal problem,” Li told the NPC’s almost 3,000 delegates. “This has displayed our resolve and confidence to realize a full law-based governance.”