China to Overhaul Anti-Corruption System (UPDATED)

Update (Nov. 6, 2017): For more information on the supervision commissions, please see this post. The first draft of the Supervision Law (监察法) is available here.

Nov. 25 Update: As reported by Xinhua, Wang Qishan, who now heads the new Central Leading Group for Pilot Work on Deepening Reform of the State Supervision System, said today that the Party will ask the NPCSC for an authorization before formally proceeding with the pilot projects. He also confirmed that the new supervision commissions will be composed of the soon-to-be-former administrative departments of supervision and corruption prevention, and also of the subdivisions of the procuratorates that investigate official duty crimes. The first step of the pilots, according to Wang, is to transfer those subdivisions from the procuratorates to the supervision commissions. He also hinted that a State Supervision Law will be adopted in the future, and which will most likely replace the current Administrative Supervision Law.

On November 7, as your author observed, the NPCSC removed the head of the Ministry of Supervision but left the position open. News from later that day explained the unusual move: The Communist Party plans to reform the state supervision system (国家监察体制) and has deployed pilot projects in Beijing, Shanxi, and Zhejiang. It seems that the Ministry of Supervision will in a few years become history. Below, this post will introduce the specifics of the reform that have since been made public, and will discuss how the reform will concern the NPC and lower-level people’s congresses.

What has the Party said about the reform?

The following points came from an announcement released by the Party on the abovementioned pilot projects:

  • The reform has been advertised as a “major political reform” (重大政治改革).
  • The reform seeks to “integrate current anti-corruption forces,” to “expand the scope of supervision,” and to “achieve the comprehensive supervisory coverage of all public officials exercising public power.”
  • Supervision commissions (监察委员会) will be established in the three provinces/municipality, and will be created (产生) by the respective provincial-level people’s congresses.
  • The supervision commissions will be “specialized organs” that will exercise “the supervisory power of the State” (国家监察职能).
  • The supervision commissions will share personnel and organizational structures with corresponding Party disciplinary inspection commissions—the so-called practice of “合署办公” in Chinese—in the same way as the supervisory departments within the people’s governments currently do.

What do those phrases mean?

The following are your author’s analysis plus that of Professor Ma Huaide, Vice President of the Chinese University of Political Science and Law, as reported by China Newsweek; he was consulted on the reform.

The supervision commissions will be vested with the anti-corruption powers now held by other institutions.
Specifically, graft-busting powers now exercised by the departments of supervision within the people’s governments, by the procuratorates, and even by the auditing offices will be given to the supervision commissions.

The supervision commissions will be able to supervise personnel outside administrative agencies.
Current departments of supervision, which are themselves administrative agencies, can only supervise the personnel of fellow administrative agencies. The future supervision commissions, on the other hand, will in theory oversee adjudicatory and procuratorial personnel as well. According to Professor Ma, even public institutions such as schools and hospitals will be subject to supervision by those commissions. However, it’s not clear at this point whether they will also supervise legislators.

The supervision commissions will be entities parallel to the people’s governments, the courts, and the procuratorates.
In other words, they will not be, as the departments of supervision currently are, part of the people’s governments, i.e., administrative organs. This is clear from the fact that the commissions will exercise “supervisory” instead of “administrative” powers. In addition, the members of the supervision commission will be elected and/or appointed by the people’s congresses.

Professor Ma also said the following:

  • Supervision commissions will eventually be established at all levels—that is, at the national, provincial, municipal, and county level, and maybe at the level of township/district.
  • While the Party hasn’t provided any timetable for the pilot projects, he expects them to last for 1–2 years.

How will the reform concern the people’s congresses?

Power over personnel. One imminent task for the three provincial-level people’s congresses concerned is to elect/appoint the members of the supervision commissions. We’ll see the details of this process when they hold their next plenary sessions early next year. Absent major changes to this particular aspect of the reform, the people’s congresses nationwide shall eventually see their power expand to include electing/appointing members of the supervision commissions.

Authorization of the reform. Because supervision commissions of the kind designed by the reform do not currently exist, and because the reform requires the three provincial-level people’s congresses to exercise powers they don’t currently have (i.e., deciding on the personnel of the supervision commissions), an authorization of the NPCSC is arguably needed if the reform is to be carried out on firm legal basis. In fact, such an authorization will be quite easy to obtain—the NPCSC still is a rubber stamp of the Party’s decisions. We’ll see in a month if the Party chooses to operate within the law or not, when the NPCSC convenes its next session in late December.

Constitutional amendment. As discussed above, the reform involves establishing an entirely new branch of government (to borrow a U.S. concept), and expanding the power of the people’s congresses. Therefore, a constitutional amendment will be inevitable in the long run, if the supervision commissions are here to stay—a point echoed by Professor Ma. If he was right about the duration of the pilot projects, we should see a constitutional amendment at the beginning of the 13th NPC, which takes office in March 2018.

Amendments to other laws. Professor Ma also argued that amendments to the following laws would be needed: the Administrative Supervision Law (the current governing statute of supervision by administrative departments of supervision), the Criminal Procedure Law, the Audit Law, and the People’s Procuratorate Organic Law. On a related note, a revision to the People’s Procuratorate Organic Law will likely be submitted to the NPCSC next year. We’ll see whether or not the draft revision takes into account of this reform.

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