China's premier unveils more measures to tackle corruption

BEIJING - The Chinese government will decentralise authority, be more transparent and adopt a "zero tolerance" attitude to corruption this year as it deepens its fight against graft, reported state media, citing Premier Li Keqiang.

President Xi Jinping has launched a sweeping crackdown on corruption since taking power, warning that the problem is a threat to the Communist Party's very survival.

The latest measures were laid out in a speech by Li on Feb. 11, in a meeting on tackling corruption, but only published by state news agency Xinhua late on Sunday.

Li criticised the over-concentration of power by the central government and urged the institution of an open government "as the most effective way to accept supervision". "When the government controls too much, directly intervenes in micro-economic activities, it not only influences the ability of the market to play a decisive role in the allocation of resources, it also increases transaction costs and makes it easy for corruption to breed," Li said.

In 2013, the government recouped 400 billion yuan (S$83.2 billion) during its investigations into corruption, Li said. More than 40,000 officials received disciplinary violations and 10,000 people have been fired, he said.

Li said the government will have a "zero tolerance" approach to "corrupt elements" within the government. "Regardless of who is involved, they must be investigated to the end, they must not be tolerated," Li said.

Li's speech comes as the investigation into China's powerful ex-domestic security chief, Zhou Yongkang, has been gaining traction, with a number of close allies coming under scrutiny.

Zhou was a member of the party's Politburo Standing Committee - the apex of power - and held the immensely powerful post of security tsar until he retired in 2012. The government has yet to officially announce an investigation into him.

Li said the government would open its budget and all its accounts further and urged top cadres to "strengthen constraints on their relatives and staff".

Though the government has professed greater transparency in combating corruption, it has detained dozens of activists who have urged officials to disclose their assets, last month jailing one of those people, the prominent dissident Xu Zhiyong.

The party has also show no sign of wanting to set up an independent body to fight corruption, insisting that its internal mechanisms are sufficient.

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