The Communist Party of China’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection has announced it will publish a book of confessions made by Party officials, to serve as a “vivid textbook” for other Party members.
Zhu Lijia, a public policy professor at the Chinese Academy of Governance, explained to the Global Times that “having a record of an investigation written from the point of the view of the person in trouble for corruption helps discipline inspection officials get feedback on the process and their anti-graft measures as well as to understand the mentality of corrupt officials.”
Zhu also noted that “writing confession letters is a practice with a long history in China and has been widely used by the modern justice system.”
The Chinese government is considering a proposal to make these confessions mandatory in corruption cases. Letters of confession are also catching on with other crimes, all the way down to violations of China’s anti-smoking laws.
The Global Times observes that many of these confession letters begin with the Party official claiming to be the child of farmers — presumably an effort to cadge a little sympathy by recounting humble origins — and they generally include ritual declarations of loyalty to the Party, along with pleas for light punishment.
For example, Song Yong, former vice chairman of the Liaoning Provincial People’s Congress Standing Committee, declared “the Party made many efforts to raise me from a poor child to a senior official but my behavior returned kindness with ingratitude.”
Song, who was given a suspended death sentence in 2011 for taking over 10 million yuan (about $1.5 million U.S.) in bribes, wrote that “greed has made me a slave of money, and a monster.”
“If I could go back, I would choose to keep my integrity … I used to be such a person. Corruption ruined myself, my child and my family,” wrote Liu Tenan, former deputy chief of the National Development and Reform Commission, who wept at his court hearing in 2014.
Liu, convicted of taking about $6 million U.S. in bribes, was given a life sentence, along with the confiscation of all his wealth and property.
The Global Times reports that some officials copy their confession letters from each other, and one of them even asked inspectors if they could provide him with a sample confession letter to copy.