On September 30th, the eve of the People’s Republic’s 65th birthday, Xi Jinping’s 15-month “mass line” campaign finally came to an end. Whether the “mass line” initiative, a Maoist concept suggesting a need to align the ruling Communist Party with the people, truly brought it closer to the general population is anyone’s guess, but what we do know is that the lives of many public officials got a lot less swanky over the last year. According to People’s Daily, the “clean up of undesirable work styles” has also saved the public purse Rmb53 billion ($8.65 billion) by cutting down on meetings, banning fancy cars, limiting foreign trips and outlawing gift-giving and expensive banquets. In total, some 96,000 foreign trips were cancelled and 114,000 staff cars recalled, the newspaper said, while the campaign uncovered salaries being paid to 162,000 people who didn’t actually come to work, and another 84,000 government employees were revealed to have taken second jobs in the private sector.
Speaking after the national holiday, Xi declared the campaign a success, saying it “had played an important role in the Party’s drive to tighten discipline”.
So can corrupt officials who managed to avoid detection now rest easy? It would seem not. Even before Xi made his speech, Xinhua was calling for the “mass line to be a persistent requirement” to “help lock power in a cage”.
“Nowadays the temptations of power abuse are still testing officials. Some are still lacking the sense of sharing weal and woe with the people,” it warned, with an unexpected flourish of medieval English.
“The close of the campaign is not the end of good work styles,” Xinhua also quoted Xi as saying.
Further arrests and investigations over the next few days suggested that Xinhua was getting what it wanted. And the search for nefarious officials overseas seemed to step up a notch as well, with Huang Shuxian, vice secretary of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection telling Xinhua that “we are working hard to make sure that there is no safe haven abroad for the corrupt and that they are brought back home to justice”.
However, the Ministry of Public Security also said that the bosses of Operation Fox Hunt, as the global search is now known, will show leniency to officials who turn themselves in.
“Suspects who opt to give themselves up before December 1 and offer true accounts of their crimes will be eligible for lesser punishments. Additional forbearance will be shown to those who are active in redressing their victims losses, provide accurate information on the crimes of others, or assist authorities in their pursuit of other fugitives,” it said.
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