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China unveils anti-graft plans, focus on protests, reforms

China's President Xi Jinping attends a meeting with former U.S. President Bill Clinton (not pictured) at the Great Hall of the People, in Be
China's President Xi Jinping attends a meeting with former U.S. President Bill Clinton (not pictured) at the Great Hall of the People, in Be

BEIJING (Reuters) - China's ruling Communist Party unveiled on Wednesday a five-year plan to fight pervasive graft, with particular attention on corruption that triggers protests or happens in the course of economic reforms.

President Xi Jinping has launched a sweeping crackdown on corruption since taking power, pursuing high-flying "tigers" as well as lowly "flies" in the government, military, state-owned enterprises and universities.

The party's anti-graft watchdog, the Central Commission for Discipline and Inspection, said in November it would target all senior officials as part of a deeper war on graft, a problem so serious Xi has said it threatens the party's survival.

The five-year plan was approved in late August but has only now been released in full, by the official Xinhua news agency.

The commission said the party faced tests in governing, in reform and opening up and danger from being too distant from the people as well as the danger of corruption.

The party must "deepen the struggle for party governance and clean government and fighting corruption to ensure that it always maintains the firmness of its core leadership".

The lengthy statement was full of jargon but short on specific steps the party would take, only outlining areas that would get particular focus, such as protests and accidents like mine disasters which happen because of corrupt officials.

"Sternly probe and handle corruption incidents which are behind mass incidents and major accidents where responsibility can be laid," it said.

About 90,000 "mass incidents" - a euphemism for protests - occur each year in China, of which some two-thirds are triggered by disputes over land. The government has vowed repeatedly to crack down on illegal land grabs, but to little apparent effect.

Forced evictions and land requisitions are widely thought to enrich officials at the expense of residents, as the land is often sold off for huge profit to developers.

HEAVIER PUNISHMENT FOR BRIBES

The commission also said the party would pay particular attention to corruption which happens in the course of economic reforms, which include the reorganization of powerful state-owned industries.

"Sternly probe and handle commercial bribery and increase punishments for giving bribes," it said.

Xi has not only targeted corrupt practices like bribe-taking, but also extravagance and waste, as he seeks to assuage public anger over graft in the civil service and Communist Party offices.

While many of those caught up in the anti-graft sweep have been relatively junior, authorities have begun to take on more significant figures.

Last week, the party announced that a deputy minister in the powerful Ministry of Public Security was being investigated for "suspected serious law and discipline violations", which normally means corruption.

Xinhua said on Wednesday that he had been stripped of his posts.

Still, the party has shown no sign of wanting to set up an independent body outside party control to fight corruption, which many experts say is the only way China can really deal with it.

Indeed, the party has gone after activists who have pressed for officials to publicly reveal their wealth. One of the most prominent of these, Xu Zhiyong, is expect to go on trial soon.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard and Hui Li; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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