China’s National People’s Congress approved the creation of the “National Supervisory Commission” on Sunday, an agency that allows Communist Party leader Xi Jinping unfettered power to inspect potentially “corrupt” members of the Communist Party.
The South China Morning Post reports that the new commission will rank “higher than the supreme court and top prosecutor’s office” and, depending on an upcoming vote likely to pass, could have the ability to detain individuals suspected of corruption and prevent them from meeting with and hiring attorneys.
Creating the commission is one of a series of reforms Xi—head of the Communist Party of China (CPC), commander-in-chief of the People’s Liberation Army, and president—proposed before the National People’s Congress convened for the year this month, and has largely been overshadowed by the Congress’s approval of repealing term limits of the presidency, potentially allowing Xi to rule as president for life. Xi is currently beginning his second, and what would have been final, term in office.
The presidency is traditionally a weaker title than the other two he possesses, which state media have referred to in unison as a “trinity” that China needs to entrust in the person of Xi Jinping to achieve progress.
Xi also successfully pushed a constitutional amendment through the National People’s Congress this week that enshrines his name in the national constitution.
The National Supervisory Committee will serve to strip the State Council, a government entity previously only beholden to the Congress, of its complete power to supervise government employees. The Chinese government insists that the creation of the National Supervisory Commission is necessary to eliminate corruption within the government. It is essentially a national version of the Communist Party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI), an agency which Xi successfully used to arrest thousands of party officials his loyalists claimed were engaged in bribery or other unethical behavior. Critics warn that Xi’s party purges appeared to target any official that could threaten his full control of the party, not just those who may be involved in misdeeds.
The South China Morning Post notes, citing government media, that the CCDI cannot currently target judiciary officials and others who are not officials in the Communist Party. The newspaper adds that, while the Congress created the entity this Sunday, they will not vote on what specific powers to give it until next weekend.
Xinhua, a Chinese state outlet, explained in a report Sunday that the National Supervisory Committee will be one of several such commissions.
“Reform of the supervisory system aims to pool anti-corruption resources, enhance the Party’s centralized, unified leadership over the campaign against corruption and form a centralized, unified, authoritative and efficient supervisory network,” Xinhua quotes a Chinese government official as stating.
Celebrating the amendments to the Chinese Constitution passed this weekend, Xi Jinping delivered remarks in which he described how lack of sufficient adherence to communism could too easily “pollute” the “political ecology” of China and thus Beijing needs to expand its control over individuals as much as possible.
“Xi stressed that a clean and upright political ecology is an essential requirement for safeguarding the authority and centralized and unified leadership of the CPC Central Committee, an urgent need for ensuring full and strict governance over the Party, and a vital guarantee for fulfilling reform and development targets,” the Global Times, a Chinese government newspaper, reported.
“Don’t let pillow talk lead you down to corruption. Don’t let your children engage in self-dealing using your name. Don’t be dragged into the ‘muddy water’ by people around you,” Xi reportedly warned government officials.
The announcement of a more powerful body for “supervisory” functions does not appear to mean an end to the CCDI. In February, Xi announced a new round of “discipline” inspections that would audit nearly every member of the Communist Party. Prior rounds of inspection have resulted in the mass arrest of thousands of Communist Party members at once.
Xi has previously joked that the deployment of “disciplinary” units to catch Communists insufficiently enthralled with his political agenda or behaving unethically was “not House of Cards,” a reference to the American political drama series.