December 2, 2016 / 3:11 AM / 3 years ago

China's top graft-buster tells party members to give up the ghosts

BEIJING (Reuters) - The man in charge of China’s war against graft has issued a new warning against Communist Party members believing in “ghosts and supernatural beings” and revealed two top officials had left after systemic corruption was found in their departments.

China's Politburo Standing Committee member Wang Qishan, the head of China's anti-corruption watchdog, pauses during the opening session of the National People's Congress (NPC) in Beijing, China, March 5, 2016. REUTERS/Jason Lee

Since assuming office four years ago, President Xi Jinping has waged battle against deep-seated graft, warning, as others have before him, the problem is so bad it could undermine the party’s grip on power.

In an undated speech to members of a government advisory body and carried in the latest issue of the influential party theoretical journal Qiushi, Wang Qishan said too many party members were weak in their ideological commitment.

“At present, some party members and officials don’t believe in Marxism–Leninism and believe in ghosts and supernatural beings. They don’t believe in the organization but believe in ‘masters’,” Wang said, using a term generally referring to charismatic religious leaders.

“When investigations are started, briefcases contain incense ash. This is diametrically opposed to the beliefs of Communist Party members,” added Wang, who heads the party’s graft watchdog the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection.

Party officials in officially atheist China are not supposed to practise religion and the charge of superstition is often leveled against the corrupt to further blacken their names.

China’s powerful former public security chief, Zhou Yongkang, jailed for life last year for corruption, was accused in court of leaking undisclosed state secrets to a fortune teller.

The party held its yearly plenum in October, unveiling new rules against corruption.

Wang said during that meeting one member of the party’s Central Committee, the largest of its elite ruling bodies, and one member of the anti-corruption watchdog had “asked for leave”, though he did not give names.

“Because the departments they lead had systemic corruption, the party center decided to hold them accountable,” Wang said, without giving details.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Nick Macfie

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