BEIJING — China announced a major breakthrough in its Operation Fox Hunt on Dec 4 with about 400 economic-crime fugitives now back on home soil.
As part of the operation, fugitives will get lenient sentencing if they return to China before Dec 1.
Although this operation is set to end on Dec 31, Vice-Minister of Public Security Liu Jinguo on Dec 4 insisted that the hunt would continue until all fugitives were tried on home soil.
The fight against corruption must be extended beyond the country’s borders as corrupt officials have fled the country with illegal gains.
It has become common practice for corrupt officials to transfer funds and assets offshore and emigrate along with their families.
China’s graft commission has been thwarted in its attempts to secure the extradition of many fugitives due to a lack of treaties with certain countries.
The case of Yang Xiuzhu, former vice-mayor of Wenzhou in east China’s Zhejiang province, is a typical example. When investigators started looking into her possible involvement in graft in 2003, she fled China with her family to the United States via Singapore and then to the Netherlands.
Investigators later uncovered evidence showing Yang had accepted bribes amounting 253 million yuan ($41 million). Through Interpol, China filed a Red Notice for her in 2006 and negotiations had begun but had yet to bear fruit.
This lack of cross-border coordination enables officials to hide in plain sight and has clearly thwarted domestic efforts to root out corruption.
There are many barriers to obtain cooperation from other countries, especially Western countries that are weary of China’s legal system.
Despite the hurdles it may face, China’s fight against graft will continue.
Thanks to the fox hunt ultimatum, of the 428 repatriated suspects in the operation, 231 chose to turn themselves in.
Fugitives that remain abroad face an uncertain future as Chinese leaders step up diplomatic efforts for cross-border operations.
The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) corruption law enforcement network was established last month, with a strong lead from China. The network includes countries deemed “safe havens” by corrupt officials.
President Xi Jinping put forward antigraft international cooperation in his proposals made at the G20 Summit in Brisbane, Australia, last month, evidencing China’s commitment to the success of Operation Fox Hunt.
China has investigated more than 50 officials of provincial level or higher for graft, including Zhou Yongkang, a former Standing Committee member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, not to mention hundreds of officials at lower levels.
Those hoping that the campaign was a passing phase should start to think seriously about their fate.