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China: Anti-Corruption Program Launched

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CHINA ANTI CORRUPTION PROGRAM
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BEIJING -- China has launched a program to try to stop corrupt officials from fleeing the country by monitoring transfers of funds and reviewing applications for overseas travel, a government management body said Friday.

Corruption is endemic in China, with huge amounts of money involved, and the ruling Communist Party has said repeatedly that the problem threatens its hold on power.

The yearlong program, launched this month, has been implemented in 10 regions including Guangdong and Shanghai, according to a report posted on the Ministry of Supervision website.

The program is the latest of numerous efforts in recent years by the central government to curb graft, often a focal point of protests by ordinary Chinese. But it remains common among party and government officials.

In June, a central bank report said thousands of corrupt officials had stolen more than $120 billion and fled overseas since the mid-1990s – with the U.S. a top destination.

Chinese officials have since backed away from the report, saying the numbers in it were incorrect, while adding China is "strengthening international cooperation in law enforcement to catch and prevent corrupt officials from fleeing abroad."

The latest campaign will require overseas travel by officials and their family members to be closely reviewed while local governments will closely monitor asset transfers abroad, the report said.

The Ministry of Supervision is part of the State Council, or Cabinet, and is responsible for supervising the work of all State Council departments, civil servants and other government employees, and investigating violations of administrative regulations involving them.

The report said local officials should submit more detailed documents for investigations into corruption cases and prevent corrupt officials from fleeing to "safeguard the party's image and national interests."

In recent years, Chinese prosecutors have made some high-profile takedowns in hopes of deterring graft among the rank and file. In China's largest recent corruption scandal, the powerful party boss of Shanghai, Chen Liangyu, was sentenced in 2008 to 18 years in prison.

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