Already dismissed by many as a mere talkshop, China's top political advisory body is now trying to improve its public image by pledging to better combat corruption after two high-ranking members were recently implicated in such scandals.
Yesterday, Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) chair Yu Zhengsheng named fallen vice-chairmen Ling Jihua and Su Rong in his work report, and said their downfall must be taken as a "warning", making it the first time in almost 20 years that a CPPCC chairman has spoken against corruption at an annual session.
Both men were among 14 delegates sacked from the body since 2013.
"We must take this as a warning and strengthen the building of our team to continue to stay firmly on the path of improving party conduct, upholding integrity and combating corruption," Mr Yu said in an hour-long speech at the Great Hall of the People.
His call comes amid a wider anti- graft drive waged by President Xi Jinping since he came to power in November 2013.
A Reuters report yesterday, quoting sources, said the former vice- chair of the powerful Central Military Commission, Guo Boxiong, is also being investigated for corruption. This comes a day after Beijing announced that his son Guo Zhenggang, a deputy political commissar of the military in eastern Zhejiang province, was being investigated over similar charges.
The CPPCC comprises about 2,200 delegates from the Communist Party, social organisations and the business community, among other groups. It conducts consultations before policy decisions are made but is seen as largely toothless.
The meeting lasts for about 10 days in March, and runs parallel to the annual session of the National People's Congress, the top legislative body.
The two meetings comprise the most important annual political events in China, where a wide range of issues is discussed and key policies adopted.
Experts say the fight against corruption is being highlighted this year because the high-profile investigations have affected the reputation of the institution. Ling, for instance, was also the former aide of retired president Hu Jintao.
"Their corrupt acts might have been done before their appointment to the CPPCC, but it still leaves a stain on the institution as they were very high- level delegates," Shenzhen University public administration professor Ma Jingren told The Straits Times.
But the CPPCC's anti-corruption agenda also demonstrates Mr Xi's unyielding commitment towards tackling graft, with the speed and scale of efforts unlikely to slow, Hong Kong-based observer Willy Lam said.
This hard-line stance was also reiterated by the political advisory body's spokesman Lyu Xinhua, who said at a press conference on Monday, ahead of the meeting, that the CPPCC "is no harbour for corrupt officials".
China's anti-corruption effort "has no limit or ceiling" and "no one has impunity", he added.
Yesterday, Mr Yu also touched on a range of areas that the CPPCC has contributed to, such as economic and legal reforms.
This year, it will work on studying the "One Belt, One Road" initiative that involves China trying to revive the ancient overland and maritime Silk Routes, and conduct research on key topics, such as air pollution.
This article was first published on March 4, 2015.
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