In a move to reform the existing national supervision system, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in November 2016 issued a draft of the new state supervision law for adoption by the National People’s Congress – China’s version of parliament. The proposed law is expected to become effective after the China’s rubber-stamp parliament scheduled to begin on 5 March 2018. At the same time, the Central Committee of the CCP launched the pilot programs for reforming the state supervision system in Beijing municipality and Shanxi and Zhejiang provinces. [i]
The CCDI is one of the key commissions of the CCP that oversees corruption related issues. The commission gained its prominence under president Xi Jinping since he launched the nationwide anti-corruption campaign in 2013. The scale of anti-corruption campaign has become unprecedented in the party history. Under the ongoing campaign, the CCDI investigated and punished millions of party members using an interrogation practice known as shuanggui. This covert interrogation method where victims often undergo torture and indefinite detention is expected to be replaced by what appears to be more judicial-friendly and transparent practice of detention known as liuzhi. However, critics still view liuzhi a masquerade in light of reforming the existing national supervision system.
From the beginning, observers at both home and abroad are concern about the nature of Xi’s anti-corruption campaign. No wonder, corruption prevention campaigns in the past were largely focused on power struggle meaning that corruption was used as a pretext to eliminate political opponents or in other words rival factions. The most recent cases of crackdown on corruption to highlight this strategy was sacking of two former politburo members. Chen Xitong, former party secretary of Beijing municipality and Chen Liangyu, former party secretary of Shanghai were disgraced and eventually sentenced to life imprisonment under Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao’s corruption crackdown respectively.
Having said that, most of the high-ranking officials convicted of corruption under the Xi’s anti-corruption drive were associated with Jiang and Hu at one point or another in their career. A case in point was Zhou Yongkang, former standing committee member of the Politburo, who was a key protégé of Jiang.
As a part of the new State Supervision Law to expand the pilot programs nationwide, the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) set up its first county-level supervisio
n commission in Samduptse chue (read district) under Shigatse city in December 2017. [ii] This was followed by creating the first provincial-level TAR supervision commission in Lhasa city in the beginning of 2018. [iii] The governance and function of TAR supervision commissions are no different from other pilot supervision commissions in China. The initiative is designed to create a powerful and unified anti-graft agency by merging all existing anti-graft bodies into one. In addition, the structure and personnel will remain the same.
In November 2014, the CCDI then headed by Wang Qishan dispatched the 4th inspection team of CCP’s Central Leading Group for Inspection Work led by Ye Dongsong to inspect TAR. After an intensive two months of inspection, the TAR Discipline Inspection Commission in January 2015 investigated and punished 15 TAR officials for violation of “political discipline”. No clear explanation was provided by Global Times, an offshoot of state-run news agency, which reported the news what violation of “political discipline” meant. [iv] However, in the context of national minorities particularly in Tibet and Xinjiang, violation of “political discipline” is euphemism of what China calls activities of endangering national unity and sovereignty.
Given the Tibet’s political gravity, a group of inspectors (preparatory team) prior to Ye’s inspection visit was dispatched by the CCDI in July primarily to expose corruption in the party and government officials in the TAR. [v] In fact, the investigation of 15 officials in the TAR was not a direct result of Ye’s inspection, rather a culmination of groundwork laid out by the preparatory team. The details of these 15 officials are still remain unclear.
Now with the inception of two new supervision commissions in the TAR, it will strengthen the authority of pre-existing discipline inspection agency that is directly responsible for investigation of Tibetan officials who in the past were punished for allegedly providing information such as protests and identities of protesters to the so-called Dalai clique.
*Tenzin Tseten is a research fellow at the Tibet Policy Institute. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the Tibet Policy Institute.