Chinese leaders launch anticorruption drive to defend reforms

China's top leaders have launched an anticorruption drive aimed at the senior ranks of the Communist Party, government, and military. The move is seen by many as an attempt to defend their economic reform programs.

At a meeting of more than 8,000 top officials last week, Party Secretary Hu Yaobang and Premier Zhao Ziyang affirmed paramount leader Deng Xiaoping's policies as the only road to prosperity for China. They also attacked indiscipline and corruption and announced the formation of a new organization to improve party conduct at the highest levels.

Neither Mr. Deng nor Chen Yun, chairman of the party's discipline inspection commission, spoke at the meeting.

Some Western diplomats said the meeting indicates that the reform leaders are on the defensive in the face of increasing reports of corruption. Deng's policies, which in his own words ``borrow some capitalist methods'' to perfect the socialist system, are not universally accepted.

But other observers said that the reformers are on the offensive to preempt their critics at a time when almost all the key positions in the party and government are filled by people loyal to Deng's policies.

At the meeting, announced to the public a day after it adjourned Jan. 9, Secretary Hu said that individuals in many central organizations of the government lack discipline. They put personal feelings above principles and behave in unfair and dishonest ways, he said.

``All loyal and honest comrades . . . have the right to report truthfully to the party Central Committee about serious wrongdoings by leading members of organizations at all levels, including the Central Committee,'' the secretary said.

Hu said that conditions are now favorable for carrying out the tasks of modernization. But there are some ``weak points'' in the central government. He asked top bureaucrats to set an example in their personal conduct for the government's more than 20 million employees. In recent months, the Chinese press has reported cases of corruption almost daily, some involving millions of dollars in bribes and illegal profits.

Chinese Premier Zhao Ziyang also addressed the group, saying that the social mood in the country was strongly influenced by the conduct of party members. As a whole, he said, official conduct is good and uncorrupt. ``That is why we dare expose [cases which are not,] and are entirely capable of eliminating corruption,'' he said.

The meeting was told that new regulations will be set out for institutions directly under the central authorities which will help correct ``unhealthy tendencies'' and improve the party's image. Wang Zhaoguo, secretariat of the party's Central Committee, said the regulations would prohibit party and government officials from running businesses and using public funds for tourism and ``random'' foreign travel. They would also tighten the selection process for party officials.

Vice-premier Tian Jiyun defended the government's reform programs, saying they will lead to ``common prosperity'' and ``absolutely not'' lead to capitalism.

Secretary Hu, China's second most powerful official, pointed to nine key decisions and policies taken by the Central Committee in the past seven years under Deng's leadership which have brought progress. These include renouncing the idea of ``taking class struggle as the key link'' and basing party decisions on practical conditions aimed at quadrupling national output by the year 2000.

He urged the party to continue to deny the Cultural Revolution (1966-76), and to evaluate China's historical experience since 1949, and to assess correctly the contributions of late party Chairman Mao Tse-tung. Other points included practising the policy of opening China to the outside world and introducing market-oriented economic reforms.

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