2017-05-30 13:04:04

Chinese civil servants who quit their jobs will have their professional careers closely scrutinized by the government for up to three years, a new policy document says.

Officials who leave office are required to report their career plans and will not be allowed to work at companies and institutes that previously fell under their administration, according to a guideline jointly issued by the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security and other government and Party departments on Friday. The restrictions apply for two years for low-level civil servants, and three years for those who held office at the level of county head or higher.

The policy should prevent so-called option corruption, where officials seek personal gain during their time in office but don’t reap the rewards until they resign or retire, said Zhuang Deshui, deputy director of the Research Center for Clean Government Construction at Peking University, in an interview with The Beijing News.

Wang Yukai, a professor at the Chinese Academy of Governance, told state broadcaster CCTV after the guideline had been issued that in recent years there had been several corruption cases in which officials joined companies in the industries they used to regulate. “This affects fair competition on the market place,” Wang said. “It is corruption in disguise.”

In one well-known case, former deputy district head in eastern China’s Jiangsu province’s capital Nanjing, founded a real-estate company and enriched himself using his former government connections. Liu Yougui was later convicted to four and a half years in jail for illegally selling rights to land.

In 2015, Luo Yanguang, the former head of a district urban planning bureau in Shenzhen, in southern China’s Guangdong province, was investigated after he was reportedly to become the CEO of a real-estate company that had construction projects in the same district he once oversaw.

Although government jobs are still regarded as stable, respectable careers, more and more officials are leaving for the private sector. According to a 2015 report by employment website Zhaopin, about a third more civil servants were looking to quit their job compared to a year earlier.

Interest in China’s civil servant exams has also decreased from a peak in 2014 — although some 930,000 applicants still sat for the test in 2016 to compete for about 27,800 job openings. China had 7.17 million government officials in 2015, the last year for which numbers are available.

According to a commentary on the website of Party newspaper People’s Daily, government careers have lost their charm in part because of the anti-corruption drive that President Xi Jinping started in 2012. Civil servant salaries are usually relatively low, and anti-graft efforts have sharply decreased the possibilities for illicit and questionable forms of income.

Peking University professor Zhuang told The Beijing News he was optimistic about the new guideline’s potential to curb corruption, but that its effectiveness will depend on whether it is strictly enforced.

Editor: Kevin Schoenmakers.

(Header image: A pedestrian walks past a wall bearing the slogan ‘Serve the people’ in Nantong, Jiangsu province, Feb. 23, 2013. VCG)