China demotes 1,000 officials with family abroad in graft fight

BEIJING (Reuters) - Authorities in China have demoted about 1,000 government officials with relatives abroad who refused to return home, state media said on Monday, in the latest clamp down in a sweeping anti-corruption campaign.

The Communist Party leadership under President Xi Jinping has presided over the anti-graft campaign to shore up a ruling mandate shaken by suspicion that officials waste taxpayers’ money or use their positions for personal gain.

Since his appointment last year, Xi has said that graft threatens the survival of the ruling party.

Authorities had identified more than 3,200 officials at county-level or above, with children or spouses who have emigrated abroad, the Xinhua state news agency, citing the Organization Department of the party’s Central Committee.

Xinhua said those officials, known as “naked” officials in China, use their families “as a conduit transferring their ill-gotten assets abroad, and in preparation for their own flight”.

“Personnel departments nationwide have held talks with ‘naked officials’ and asked them to choose between accepting less sensitive posts or bringing their families back to China,” Xinhua said.

“Those who refused have been disciplined and personnel departments will monitor ‘naked officials’ on a regular basis in the future.”

In July, the southern province of Guangdong said it had forced out more than 850 “naked officials” from their jobs. The province drafted a law in October banning such officials from holding important positions.

In July, Wang Qishan, secretary of the party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, told investigators to go after such officials.

Separately, the party’s anti-graft watchdog said on Monday it was investigating a senior executive from China Unicom for graft.

Zhang Zhijiang, the general manager responsible for network construction, was suspected of “serious violation of discipline”, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection said on its website.

The commission did not give any details of the investigation. In China, the term “serious violation of discipline” can be used to denote corruption. It was not possible to contact Zhang.

Zhou Xiaoke, a Hong Kong-based spokesman for China Unicom, confirmed the investigation into Zhang. He said Zhang has been removed from his job.

“Any actions that violate the law and discipline cannot be tolerated. That is our attitude,” Zhou said.

Zhou said he could not give more details into the investigation as it was up to the party’s anti-graft watchdog, and not the company, to do so.

Reporting by Sui-Lee Wee; Edting by Robert Birsel