PRC corruption persists despite Xi’s crackdown
Xi Jinping took over as general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in 2012, promising to weed out the “tigers and flies” — powerful leaders and low-level bureaucrats — in a relentless anti-corruption drive.
Eight years later, CCP officials, state-owned enterprises and many of China’s wealthiest citizens are still being linked to corruption throughout the Indo-Pacific and beyond, in schemes ranging from forced labor to money laundering.
Despite Xi’s promises, public corruption in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has not budged since he took office. The PRC ranked 80th out of 198 countries in 2019 on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, the same as in 2012. Denmark was considered the least corrupt country, while Somalia was flagged as the most corrupt at No. 198
The index ranks countries on how corrupt their public sectors are perceived to be by experts and business executives. As the United Nations marks International Anti-Corruption Day on December 9, 2020, it reports that U.S. $1 trillion in bribes is paid each year while an estimated U.S. $2.6 trillion is stolen annually through corruption.
In the past year alone, gamblers, state-owned enterprises and public officials from the PRC have been linked to corruption. The U.S. Department of the Treasury in July 2020 sanctioned a Chinese government entity and two current or former officials for human rights abuses in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC), a CCP paramilitary organization; Sun Jinlong, a former XPCC political commissar; and Peng Jiarui, a deputy party secretary and XPCC commander, were sanctioned for the mass detention and physical abuse of ethnic minorities, including Uighurs, a Muslim population indigenous to Xinjiang.
“The United States is committed to using the full breadth of its financial powers to hold human rights abusers accountable in Xinjiang and across the world,” U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a news release.
The sanctions followed the April 2020 arrest of the PRC’s vice minister of public security. Sun Lijun was arrested for what the CCP described as “severe violations of party discipline and law,” which observers said indicated corruption, Voice of America reported.
His arrest came after the January 2020 sentencing of former Interpol chief Meng Hongwei to more than 13 years in prison. Meng pleaded guilty in 2019 to using his position in the PRC to accept more than U.S. $2 million in bribes between 2005 and 2017 while vice minister of public security.
Corruption allegations extend into the private sector. In 2010, a British Columbian official warned that drug traffickers were laundering a “horrendous” amount of $20 bills through casinos, the Canadian Global Television Network reported.
Larry Vander Graaf, former executive director of the Canadian province’s Gaming Policy Enforcement Branch, said the cash was in $10,000 bundles wrapped in elastic bands, which is how drug dealers store their proceeds. The investigation indicated that VIP gamblers, predominantly from the PRC, received the cash from loan sharks with ties to organized crime.
Cambodia’s casinos also are vulnerable. Narcotics investigators in July 2019 told the Nikkei Asian Review that they were probing money laundering in the casinos of Sihanoukville, a coastal city that is a magnet for Chinese gamblers amid the region’s booming methamphetamine market.