NPC signals corruption, budget disquiet


Mainland Chinese lawmakers signalled anger at rampant official corruption on Thursday by giving reports by the supreme court and the chief prosecutor a tough passage through the annual session of parliament.

Delegates voting on the last day of the National People’s Congress (NPC) also showed reservations about state spending plans, with some 25 percent withholding support for a 2001 budget that promises a 17.7 percent hike in defense expenditure.

More than 30 percent voted against or abstained in polls on reports by the Supreme People’s Court and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate, which vowed last week to wipe out official graft, organized crime and the Falun Gong spiritual group in 2001.

Premier Zhu Rongji told a news conference after the votes the results were “quite serious”, but that he was happy with them.

“After seeing the results of the vote I feel it is quite serious, but also I feel quite happy because it’s a big improvement over the situation last year, where reports were adopted by two-thirds majority,” Zhu said.

The votes in this year’s two-week NPC session did show an increase in dissent over last year, however, when 29 percent of delegates voted against or abstained from voting on the two documents.

Mainland China’s parliament has never rejected a Communist Party proposal, but secret voting has emboldened delegates who are anxious to send powerful signals to the government and party.

This year, 530 delegates voted against the supreme court’s report while 337 either abstained or did not vote and 1,953 backed it.

The prosecutor’s report got the thumbs-down from 584 with 346 either not voting or abstaining.

“This shows the people are less than satisfied with the work of the government, especially the state council,” Zhu said.

“But this does not reflect the loss of confidence on the part of the general public on the ability of the government to wipe out general corruption.”

But NPC delegates said not enough was being done.

“The reports did not have enough on corruption. Everybody worries about judicial corruption, but neither report mentioned it,” said a delegate from southern Guizhou province who had not approved the prosecutor’s report.

A Hong Kong delegate said he was not entirely satisfied with the reports and the budget because they had not done enough to tackle problems.

“For example, they said in the report that they are increasing spending on corruption by 10 percent, which is a lot less than in the other areas,” he said.

Mainland China hiked spending on the military by almost 18 percent besides unveiling a hefty deficit to be spent largely on state infrastructure projects to keep the economy growing reasonably quickly — about seven percent this year against eight in 2000.

Discontent over the budget increased from last year, when 14 percent either rejected the report or abstained from the vote.

In other votes, the NPC approved changes to a law on Sino-foreign joint ventures in preparation for Greater China’s entry to the World Trade Organization, which is expected this year.

The changes scrap provisions requiring joint ventures to give priority to buying raw materials domestically, the official Xinhua news agency said.