Proposed new bilateral investment treaties would improve transparency and help tackle corruption in China, says Robert Zoellick, a former World Bank president, US trade representative and deputy secretary of state:
Chinese reformers believe that bilateral investment treaties will help them fight favouritism and corruption, remove onerous regulations that choke market competition, improve uneven law enforcement, and shrink the advantages enjoyed by state-owned enterprises. As one Chinese official told me, if the authorities offer equal and fair treatment to foreigners, China’s private sector can demand the same. Reformers recognise that small and medium-sized enterprises would be the biggest winners from fairly enforced economic rules.
“Bilateral treaties, technical though they might be, can be potent tools,” says Zoellick, a board member of the National Endowment for Democracy. “They can assist China’s market reforms, deepen constructive economic ties with the west, and strengthen the international rule of law. They also offer a positive agenda to buffer inevitable differences,” he writes for The Financial Times.
But reports suggest that the ruling Communist Party is resorting to more familiar and less technocratic approaches to curbing corruption, while cracking down on grassroots anti-graft campaigners, including Xu Zhiyong, the “quiet lawyer holding Beijing to account” and the broader New Citizens Movement (see above).
Brutality yields graft confessions
The anti-corruption crackdown has netted officials at most levels of government, many of whom have been investigated and questioned under an internal disciplinary process called shuanggui, China Digital Times reports. While stories have emerged about mistreatment and harsh conditions in shuanggui facilities, the AP’s Gillian Wong gives a detailed account of torture from four local officials held in Hunan:
Zhou, land bureau director for the city of Liling, was confined in the party’s secret detention system at a compound in central Hunan, touted as a model center for anti-corruption efforts. Nobody on the outside could help him, because nobody knew where he was.
In a rare act of public defiance, Zhou and three other party members in Hunan described to The Associated Press the months of abuse they endured less than two years ago, in separate cases, while in detention. Zhou said he was deprived of sleep and food, nearly drowned, whipped with wires and forced to eat excrement. The others reported being turned into human punching bags, strung up by the wrists from high windows, or dragged along the floor, face down, by their feet.
All said they talked to the AP despite the risk of retaliation because they were victims of political vendettas and wanted to expose what had happened. Party representatives contacted by the AP denied the abuses had taken place.
[…] Wang Qiuping, party secretary of an industrial park in Ningyuan, said he was slapped often and forced to stand and kneel for hours during a detention of 313 days. His deputy Xiao Yifei told the AP he was hooded for more than a month and beaten up by an interrogator who went by the nickname “Tang the Butcher.” Xiao provided the AP with a receipt from a local party discipline office showing his sister paid 35,000 yuan, or $5,700, in “violation fees” to secure his release after 208 days. And Fan Qiqing, a contractor, said he was kicked and lashed with a metal whip and wooden plank during his 431-day detention and forced to take hallucinogenic drugs.
A Ningyuan party official who refused to give his name said the investigation involving all three men was carried out in a “civilized manner” and no one was tortured.