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How Much Bribery Deserves the Death Penalty?

Experts Suggest Amending Article 383 of “Criminal Law” of the People’s Republic of China

According to China Youth Daily, the Second Intermediate Court in Beijing issued a court decision for the bribery, or embezzlement trial of the former Secretary of the Guizhou Communist Party Committee, Liu Fangren. Liu was convicted of bribery and sentenced to lifetime imprisonment. Money he received from bribery, 6.6 million yuan (~$800,000) and 19,900 U.S. dollars, and all of his personal assets will be confiscated. On the same day, the People’s Intermediate Court of Shenzhen rendered a judgment in the case of Huang Yihui, the former Secretary of the Communist Party Committee and Director of Shenzhen Bureau of Road Administration, who is also Director of the Bureau of Municipal Civil Administration. Initially Huang received the death penalty for the charge of bribery and five-year imprisonment for receiving a huge amount of assets from an unidentifiable source. The final sentence for several crimes Huang had committed was death penalty with two years stay of execution, deprivation of political rights for life and confiscation of all personal assets (valued at approximately 35 million yuan.) (News source: both excerpted from New Beijing, June 30, 2004.)

According to Criminal Law, bribery or embezzlement of up to 100,000 yuan or more carry death penalty for the offender. However, we haven’t seen such a penalty handed down from a court. Even for those who bribed, or accepted bribery of amounts of not less than 100,000 yuan, the death penalty was rarely seen in sentencing. It’s reasonable to raise this question: why do judges have such enormous discretion in making decisions?

To get to the root of the matter, the loophole exists in the law itself. Article 383 of Criminal Law states that persons who embezzle not less than 100,000 yuan shall be sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment of not less than 10 years or life imprisonment and may also be sentenced to confiscation of property; if the circumstances are especially serious, he shall be sentenced to death and also to confiscation of property. Article 386 provides that whoever has committed the crime of acceptance of bribes shall, on the basis of the amount of money or property accepted and the seriousness of the circumstances, be punished in accordance with the provisions of Article 383.

A detailed analysis of Article 383 reveals that it is very problematic. Based upon Article 383, what rationale for sentencing would the judge use for those who embezzle not less than 100,000 yuan? The sentencing could carry many options, such as fixed-term imprisonment, life imprisonment, or even the death penalty. As for the death penalty, it could also be imposed with several years’ stay of execution. There are many options for fixed-term imprisonment as well: ten years, fifteen years, twenty years, etc. Then, what are the criteria for judgment? This is the first argument.
Second, Article 383 is applicable to those who embezzle not less than 100,000 yuan. No ceiling has been defined. One can interpret it as an infinite amount. Such a statement is equal to giving those who embezzle and bribe more audacity and room to be greedy. In terms of sentencing, those who embezzle 100,000 yuan are subject to “more than 10 years imprisonment,” the same as those who embezzle millions or tens of millions yuan. Then, what on earth is the difference between not less than 100,000 yuan and millions or tens of millions of yuan? Isn’t it just a judgment call by the judge?

Third, “if the circumstances are especially serious, he shall be sentenced to death and also to confiscation of property.” What indeed is an “especially serious” circumstance? What is a “circumstance?” How does one define “especially serious?” What is the extreme of “especially”? If even several million or tens of millions of yuan, which could exceed ten or several hundred-fold of the amount of 100,000 yuan, do not constitute an “especially serious circumstance,” what then is the criterion for an “especially serious circumstance?”

This reminded me of an ironclad law. When the Red Army was in Yanan, there was a “General Program of Border Area Discipline.” Within the “General Program,” there was an unequivocal law found in “Rules of Personnel of Government Affairs,” which read, “Those who embezzle up to 50 yuan or more are subjected to removal from office; those who embezzle up to 500 yuan or more will be subjected to death penalty.” What was the worth of 500 yuan back then? It was, at most, a cadre’s salary earned in two or three years time. Perhaps the law was not complete or perfect at that time, but it was put in an unambiguous way. In comparison, our current law lacks accuracy and precision; they give too much room for interpretation, such as when specifying “no less than” a certain amount. Words such as “especially serious circumstance” are too ambiguous to be used in making laws. If the law invites too much room for imagination, the judge could interpret it either broadly or narrowly. Undoubtedly, such ambiguity undermines the dignity and authority of the law. It is very ineffective in punishing corruption. Corruption cases involving more than millions and/or tens of millions yuan are on the rise steadily nowadays. It is probably related to the broad discretion of judges in making decisions.

One thousand people in an audience will probably be inspired with one thousand different interpretations of “Hamlet.” It’s just such a huge canvas for one’s imagination. This is the charm of art. However, there should be no room left for imagination in law. It should not be permitted to interpret the same law one way or another. Thus, Article 383 and 386 fall short, in terms of precise guidance for those in the judiciary. To a certain extent, it has become a protective shield for corrupt officials. It must be amended.

Based on a report at Protecting Citizens Rights website:

Shanghai Newspaper Lists China’s Top Ten Cases of Corruption

The magnitude of rampant corruption among Chinese government officials has sent an alarming signal to the Central Government and is posing a big threat to China’s stability. Although Beijing has launched anti-corruption campaigns year after year, the trend continues to get worse. The Shanghai Overseas Chinese Journal revealed China’s top 50 cases of corruption by officials in a July edition. The list included former Governor of Yunnan Province Li Jiating; former Deputy Secretary of the Party Committee of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous region Cheng Kejie; former Secretary of the Beijing Municipal Party Committee Chen Xitong; former Secretary of the Leading Party Group of the Ministry of Land and Resources Tian Fengshan; and former Deputy Minister of Public Security Li Jizhou.

Below are the top 10 cases of corruption

1) Yu Zhendong, Xu Chaofan, and Xu Guojun. The trio embezzled and transferred about $ 483 million overseas while they held senior management positions at the Kaiping City Branch of the Bank of China (BOC) in Guangdong province.

2) Chen Manxiong and Chen Qiuyuan, husband and wife. They are accused of embezzling and misappropriating more than 420 million yuan ($51 million) in public funds between 1993 and 1995 when they were in charge of Guangdong Zhongshan Industrial Development Co. Ltd.

3) Zhang Zonghai and Zhang Xiaochuan. While Zhang Zonghai was acting as Director of the Propaganda Department of the Chongqing Municipal Party Committee, he used nearly 200 million yuan (~$24.1 million) in public funds for personal use and lost more than 100 million yuan (~$12.0 million) at the Lisboa Casino.

4) Jin Jianpei. During his term as former Director of the Hubei Provincial government’s office in Hong Kong and Macao, he was convicted of embezzling 188 million yuan (~$ 22.9 million). He was given the death penalty.

5) Chu Shijian and his company. As the former Chairman and President of the Hong Ta Group (China’s biggest state-owned tobacco company), Chu was sentenced to life imprisonment for embezzlement of 180 million yuan (~$21.9 million).

6) Yang Qianxian and associates. During Yang’s term as the head of Xiamen Customs, Yang accepted bribes of 160 million yuan (~$19.5 million) from Lai Changxin and turned a blind eye to Lai’s smuggling operation. Yang was given the death penalty.

7) Wei Huai and associates. During Wei’s term as manager for a Chinese investment company stationed in Macao, he accepted bribes of 93.3 million yuan (~$11.4 million). Pan Jierong and other colleagues also accepted million of dollars in bribes as well. They were sentenced to life imprisonment.

8) Wang Baosen, formerly Beijing’s Deputy Mayor, accepted bribes of 125 million yuan (~$15.2 million). He committed suicide in 1998.

9) Ye Jizhan, former President of the Fujian City Industry and Commerce Bank, accepted bribes of 106 million yuan (~$12.9 million). He provided assistance in the Yuan Hua smuggling case and was given the death penalty.

10) Yu Zhian, former head of the China Chang Jiang Energy Corporation (CCJEC), embezzled funds of 100 million yuan (~$12.1 million) for personal investment overseas. He has since fled China.

Yu Zhendong was escorted back to China for embezzling over $483 million from Bank of China.

Dangerous Milk Formula Sold in New York

According to a report from The Epoch Times, dangerous baby milk formula that caused babies heads to swell due to malnutrition was found in a local Chinatown supermarket in New York City. The Agriculture Department of New York City put an immediate ban on powdered milk imports from Xinjiang province, China, and is investigating whether all sales of powdered milk products should be restricted in the United States.

New York agriculture officials found that seven brands of powdered milk produced by Xinjiang Ili dairy company lacked the necessary requirements of protein, milk fat, calcium and magnesium set forth by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The Chinese government food inspection agency also considers the powdered milk products by Xinjiang Ili to be inadequate. The supermarket manager where the milk was found said that the products were purchased recently from a U.S. distributor and were not imported directly from China.

The New York Agriculture Department ordered all supermarkets in Chinatown to stop selling powdered milk products imported from China and is investigating the distribution company selling Xinjiang products. All powdered milk products have been removed from all supermarkets in Chinatown.

People were in an uproar last April when inferior powdered milk found in Fayang and Anhui provinces caused babies’ heads to swell while the growth of their lower body was stunted. More than 189 babies suffered from malnutrition that left at least 12 dead. Another incident in Guizhou province caused 150 children to become seriously ill from drinking staphylococcus-laced powdered milk.

Many blame the government’s lack of immediate action for the rash of contaminated food products on the market in China. Even after a product was found to cause serious illness and even death officials were reluctant to take action.


Milking China for Product Quality Control

“Warning – Follow instructions exactly. Prepare bottles and teats as directed. Do not change proportions of powder except on medical advice. Incorrect preparation can make your baby very ill……”

The above is typically found on labels of any brand of baby milk formula on most supermarket shelves in the West. However, following the instructions exactly wouldn’t have made much difference to little Yang Kaili, who may suffer permanent brain damage after being fed fake formula milk made in her homeland – China.

The news of the fatal formula milk, produced in over 140 factories across China, shocked the world. The LA Times reported in May 2004 that 13 babies died and more than 170 suffered serious malnutrition as a result of drinking the fake baby formula powder.

Many mothers in rural China turn to baby formula because they cannot produce enough of their own milk. The cheapest baby formula on the market, “Star of the Grasslands”, has been supplied for the past two years. The price made it very popular with many mothers, including Kaili’s mother. One month after Kaili started drinking the baby formula, her little head started to swell, her skin turned bright red and her eyes were reduced to slits. A similar agonizing fate has been suffered by hundreds of babies across China who drank the same baby formula.

In America many may not even think twice when buying baby formula for their babies. However, the Epoch Times recently reported that the fatal baby formulas made in China are also available on the streets of New York. Agriculture officials found that seven brands of powdered milk produced by Xinjiang Ili dairy company lacked the necessary requirements of protein, milk fat, calcium and magnesium set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

This substandard milk formula is yet another example of the lack of quality control inside China’s factories and forced-labor camps. Numerous cases have also been reported in Epoch Times regarding other harmful products that are available to the consumers. For instance vegetables pickled in poisonous industrial salt and chemicals, and poisonous colorings added to noodles. According to the Asian Labor News database, a popular new type of rice grain called ‘laborer grain’ (min-gong liang) was found to contain carcinogens (an ingredient that could cause cancer). These incidents will no doubt make consumers think twice before buying ‘Made in China’ products.

An increasing number of major enterprises are shifting their production to Asia, attracted by the cheap labor. However one company’s cost cutting, could lead to thousand of people being poisoned. Is it worth it? Imagine buying a pair of Puma shoes that were sewn and glued by workers forced to work up to 16.5 hours a day, from 7:30 in the morning to midnight, six or seven days a week, for wages of just 31 cents an hour. According to The National Labor Committee, Puma is making a net profit of $12.24 per hour on each of their employee in China. Annually, Puma is reaping a profit of $38,189 on each worker. In a single factory, Puma’s profit from the workers can reach over $92 million a year.
With jobs and production lines shifting to Mainland China, what are the real costs and benefits at the end of the day? As China continues to report rapid economic growth, thousands of Americans are sinking into unemployment. On July 2, 2003, the American Textile Manufacturers Institute (ATMI) published a shocking report stating that more than 1,300 textile plants in the U.S. would have to close by early 2004, resulting in the loss of over 630,000 jobs. The U.S. textile and apparel clothing market will be entirely dependent to China if protective measures were not implemented in a timely manner.

Evidence suggests that consumers and manufacturers are finding it difficult to ignore the human cost and as well as workers’ rights when considering trade with China. In 2001, Swiss confectionary giant Nestle ordered 100,000 toy rabbits from the Beijing-based Mickey Toy Corporation. The toys were produced under inhumane conditions. Hundreds of women, many of whom were illegally detained Falun Gong practitioners, were forced to work up to 20 hours a day. Some were beaten or tortured if the quota was not fulfilled. What lies beneath the story is behind the production of each rabbit which lies incredible pain and suffering.

In recent years, the hair product industry has experienced a marked growth. Various hair accessories have flooded into U.S. and the world’s biggest manufacturer, Henan Rebecca Hair Products Inc, occupies one fourth of the U.S. market (June 22, 2003, issue of March into the International Big Circulation). Few people realize that Henan Rebecca Hair Products Inc, a multi-million dollar corporation, thrives because of slave labour.

It is naive to suggest that business is not about profits, but who said that profit and humanitarian concerns have to be mutually exclusive? Apart from the benefits of outsourcing and the increased profit margins, where do human lives fit in? Perhaps replacing “Made in China” tags with “Made in a Chinese Labor Camp” is one option? Inadequate transparency of information is not going away on the Mainland. These Asian partners will continue to do more than raise an eyebrow for the concerned consumer and prompt suppliers will have to re-consider the ethics of their business decisions.

The alarming lack of product quality control, the violation of workers’ rights in China is a grim reality hanging in the favorite business destination of the corporate world. One thing is for sure, the consumer can only hope that tragedies like the baby formula will not be exported to other countries or harm any infant wherever they are.

Alexandria Brysk is a correspondent for Chinascope.

Filling in the GAP

Adam Smith’s idea to “never to attempt to make a home what it will cost him more to make than to buy,” is a perfect description of the philosophy behind Chinese product manufacture. It is this cheapest form of produce that allows us to keep up with today’s throw away fashion ideology. Yet when asked, most U.S. consumers today will say they prefer to buy American brands and U.S. made products. However, with the influx of foreign goods — U.S. imports totaled $1.2 trillion in 2002, 11% of U.S. GDP — buying American is no longer practical in some instances and impossible in many others. Price often takes precedence over other priorities such as quality, durability and style. So while “Made in America” may no longer be as important as we once believed; are we really getting our money’s worth? What is the real cost of using cheaper clothing manufacturers to create a sustainable business future for America?

In recent times, China has become the world’s biggest textile and clothing exporter, selling $42 billion of clothing and textile manufactured products overseas in the first half of 2004. This has led to a crossroads situation in countries like America, where the National Council of Textile Organizations is predicting that 650,000 U.S. jobs will be lost by 2007 as 1,300 textile factories close due to the ability of retail outlets and fashion houses to outsource their products to countries like China.

Yet it appears that cheaper is not necessarily better for the producers who are choosing to manufacture in China. Certainly, the idea of going to China must have been causing a few headaches for some managers from America’s second largest clothing retailer Gap Inc. Recently The Gap Inc. (trademarks include Gap, Banana Republic, Gap Kids, Gap Shoe Stores, Baby Gap Store) has found out the hard way that China was not a suitable environment for its business. In a nutshell the Gap has cancelled contracts with 42 of its clothing manufacturers in China for breaching Gap’s labor standards this year. The Gap announced the changes in its Social Responsibility Report (SR Report), which described the company’s internal investigations into the labor practices of its factories worldwide in 2003. The report detailed that 9% of China’s 464 factories producing merchandise for Gap were dropped. This placed China at the top of the list for compliance violations in the case of Gap’s factories, when compared to other nations. China is one of the 50 countries that Gap outsources its labor to, but also the source for the largest production. In 2003, 16% of Gap’s merchandise came from China, but according to the SR Report there were “unique and complex compliance challenges” involved. One example of these challenges includes the difficulty of addressing workers’ needs and grievances “in a country that does not recognize workers’ right to associate freely outside of government approved organizations.” The report said the reason such a high number of factories were dropped as Gap’s suppliers is due to the “concealment of overtime and unwillingness to share complete and accurate information.” Over 50% of the factories failed to fully comply with local laws. 25 to 50% had poor records of the age of their workers, unclear wage statements and poor working environments, such as a lack of first-aid kits, personal protective equipment, operational safety devices on machines, and proper means of storage for flammable and hazardous materials. Investigators found physical coercion and verbal abuse violations occurred in as many as 25% of the factories. Also, common were violations of local legal working conditions and restricted access to Gap internal inspectors.
Since the release of the Report, human rights groups such as Sweat-shop Watch have praised Gap for its openness and movement towards better working conditions in its factories. Such positive feedback for Gap’s actions have quelled old accusations of labor abuses as well as placing pressure on other clothing and manufacturing companies with factories abroad to follow suit. Global corporations like Wal-mart might follow the trend, after observing the precedent set by Gap. Knowledge is an empowering tool for both the consumer and the producer as it allows us to create sustainable economic opportunities for ourselves and others in this global community. So what have we learned from America’s clothing giant built on the two of the most popular fashion items, of jeans and T-shirts? It shows that multinationals such as Gap Inc., can set social and business trends, that can reach beyond the borders of countries. After all, they are already setting global trends with their jeans.

M. Ho, and Victoria Kelly-Clarke are correspondents for Chinascope.

What Lies Beneath: Beijing 2008 Olympic Games

The highest aim of the Olympic Games is set out in the Olympic Charter: “encouraging the establishment of a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.” Yet of all the nations in the world which could have hosted the next Olympic Games, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has picked China the country generally viewed as the biggest violator of human dignity.

From the issue of Tibet, to the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners, Christians, Catholics, democracy activists and human rights advocates, China’s human rights record is appalling. Visitors to the 2008 Olympics will not need to go far to view this modern history of China. Attendees of the cycling, marathon and triathlon events will only need to look around their venue—Tiananmen Square.

Can the world forgive and forget?

Tiananmen Square, or the Gate of Heavenly Peace, was originally constructed for citizens to air their case before the Emperor without fear of reprisal. In more recent times, however, it has been the site of the worst bloodshed and repression that modern China has known. In the past 15 years many have seen the 1989 massacre of student democracy activists, and the arrest of thousands of Falun Gong practitioners.

While these simple paradoxes are enough to cause some people to reconsider their attendance at the 2008 Olympics, it appears a far more pressing issue is coming to the surface. Corruption has dogged the IOC and the host nations for the past few years. While corruption scandals in the past have generally focused on the IOC and its officials, many Chinese nationals are concerned that China’s centuries-old custom of corruption will affect the Beijing games. As 22-year-old student, Sun Rongrong, expressed to the BBC World News Service in 2001, “There is a widespread fear that billions of dollars in Olympic-related construction projects will end up filling the pockets of corrupt officials.” (The BBC World News Service, Saturday, 14 July, 2001, ‘Beijing Revels in Olympics Victory’.)

It certainly appears that this fear was well founded, as the Auditor General of China’s National Audit Office (CNAO), Li Jinhua, reported on January 31 that there were cases of embezzlement amounting to 16.5 billion yuan (~$2 billion) uncovered by government audits in 2003. Local CNAO offices conducted the audits, which were focused on revenue and expenditure statements of public organizations in 26 provinces, regions and cities.

The audits revealed a full spectrum of accounting misconduct. Minor infractions took many forms, such as not reporting income and expenses according to regulations. More serious infractions were also common, such as many departments giving out fines without justification, abusing expense accounts, and not banking department funds into correct treasury accounts. Investigators also revealed that more than 290 grassroots public organizations had secretly set up 1325 state treasuries, to which they which directed over $700 million yuan (~$90 million).
Bottom Line

The CNAO report also disclosed that government officials at various levels of the government had misused more than $2 billion in 2003, with the 2008 Olympic committee also fingered for embezzlement. CNAO found that the sporting body had used more than $15 million inappropriately by spending on private housing for staff, and by diverting funds into other investments. One can only imagine the amount of corruption surrounding the pool of $33 billion used to build the Olympic infrastructure in Beijing. However, this widespread fraud will mean that all sorts of bribes and crooked deals may have taken place, which brings up the issue of the safety of the construction projects. In the past, newly built infrastructure like highways, high rise buildings and public housing were found to be unsafe due to corrupt officials cutting costs on these projects. An example of this is seen in the above mentioned CNAO report which also revealed that during last year’s investigations on the use of funds for treating and preventing water pollution in the Three Gorges Dam, from the area around the city of Chongqing and the Hubei Province, it was discovered that the amount of contaminants entering the dam area was unclear, as part of the special teams established to prevent and treat water pollution were unable to reach the discharge standards. China seems to be sweeping all this under the rug, a nasty habit it has developed when dealing with people’s live. It begs the question of how large is the façade and is the West going to implement any real checks and balances on China’s Olympic preparations.

Bad taste in the mouth
So far, the picture being painted is that the world is haunted by a shadow of doubt about China’s human rights record, its endemic corruption and its ability to fulfill the role of Olympic host. Altogether, this creates a bad taste in the mouth, like the aftermath of accidentally drinking sour milk. If it looks bad, and smells bad, it probably is bad, so do you really have to taste it, in spite of everything?

Did you know these facts about China?

Electricity is scarce in Beijing especially during summer, resulting in frequent “brownouts” (planned blackouts) and blackouts.

Construction companies and government officials related to the Olympics are being investigated on corruption charges.

Traffic congestion is a major problem in Beijing, as motor vehicles become more affordable for the Chinese. This has resulted in high levels of pollution, infrastructural problems and traveling difficulties.

Government newspaper says for every120 men there are 100 women.
Xinhuanet reports about a plastic surgery epidemic in China, with children as young as 3 years old being given dimples by their parents.

Energy Bureau of the State Development and Reform Comission reports China’s output of primary energy was equal to 1.603 billion tons of standard coal last year, up 11% over the previous year.

According to the China Daily, China discharged 19.27 million tons of sulfur dioxide in 2002, 90% of which came from burning coal, and 200 million tons of ash and solid waste.

The average wage for worker in Guangzhou this year is 22, 446 yuan (~$2750) , 9.2% higher than 2003 according to Asian Labor News.

Priceless ancient artifacts and historical residential sites are being demolished to make ways for new residential and office buildings for the 2008 Olympics.

Victoria Kelly-Clarke is a correspondent for Chinascope.

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