Free 'dinner party' for too many for too long
China's economic reform may have unleashed the world's most powerful engine of economic growth,
but for some people it has also opened a Pandora's box of greed, graft and corruption.
In the first six months of this year, more than 10,000 officials were found guilty of corruption or abuse
of power for personal gain. Official statistics from the Supreme People's Court show that over the past
five years, 83,308 corrupt officials have been prosecuted in 99,306 cases of embezzlement and bribery.
"Revolution is not a dinner party," wrote late Chairman Mao Zedong when, as a young Communist leader,
he led a rebellion against social injustice in his native Hunan Province in 1927. Now, 80 years later,
those corrupt, fat-cat officials, and some of China's newly rich, are making a mockery of the sentiment
as they gorge themselves at the public trough.
For them, life has become an endless "dinner party" and one where the bill never arrives.
An annual report by the National Audit Office shows that government departments lost 2.2 billion yuan
due to corruption, poor taxation and bad land management in 2005. About 685 million yuan were lost to
embezzlers who fabricated expenditures or concealed and absconded with revenues.
Even though embezzling can cost officials their lives, many who are caught with their hands in the public
cookie jar are getting off lightly.
The Procuratorate Daily, a government newspaper run by the nation's top prosecution body, revealed that
the number of corrupt officials given suspended sentences has risen from 52.6 percent in 2001 to 82.83
percent in 2005. Just over 19 percent of ordinary people convicted of crimes receive suspended sentences.
In some cases, corrupt officials have even been exempted from criminal penalties and allowed to keep
their jobs and civil service perks.