9 Nov 2014

'Major step forward' against corruption

8:34 am on 9 November 2014

Asia-Pacific countries, including China and the United States, have announced plans to co-operate more closely in the fight against corruption.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi speaks at a press conference in Beijing on 8 November.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi speaks at an APEC press conference in Beijing on 8 November. Photo: REUTERS

Leaders of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), which includes New Zealand, are planning to set up what they call an anti-corruption and transparency network when they meet in Beijing next week, the BBC reported.

More on the talks in Beijing

APEC members said in a statement that the purpose of the agreement, proposed by China, was to deny safe haven to anyone engaged in corruption.

It comes amid efforts by Chinese President Xi Jinping to clamp down on corrupt officials, including those who try to escape abroad.

US Secretary of State John Kerry hailed the move as a "major step forward".

"Corruption not only creates an unfair playing field, it not only distorts economic relationships, but corruption also steals from the people of every country the belief that the system can work for everybody."

The gathering culminates tomorrow in a two-day summit attended by Prime Minister John Key and leaders from the other 20 APEC member-economies.

US Secretary of State John Kerry welcomed the anti-corruption agreement, describing it as a "major step forward".

US Secretary of State John Kerry welcomed the anti-corruption agreement, describing it as a "major step forward". Photo: REUTERS

Extradition concerns

The APEC group statement said it had set up the Network of Anti-Corruption Authorities and Law Enforcement Agencies (ACT-NET) to investigate bribery, money laundering and illicit trade.

The network commits its 21 member states to "deny safe haven to those engaged in corruption, including through extradition, mutual legal assistance and the recovery and return of proceeds of corruption".

It will also "establish measures and systems to protect whistleblowers".

Officials said that the proposal was initiated by China and backed by the US, the BBC reported.

But correspondents said it was not clear how the agreement would work between countries that do not have bilateral extradition treaties.

The US, Canada and Australia - all seen as friendly to Chinese emigrants - have no extradition treaties with China because of concerns about capital punishment and the alleged use of torture in the Chinese judicial system.

China is currently involved in a huge campaign to root out corruption at all levels of society.

More than 13,000 Chinese officials were found guilty of corruption and bribery in the first nine months of 2014 alone.

This year saw the launch of Operation Fox Hunt, widening the scope of the campaign to include officials who have fled abroad.

President Xi has warned that the campaign would target both "tigers" and "flies", indicating that no-one, even senior party members, was exempt from the crackdown.

Since he came to power, some of China's biggest political heavyweights, including the vice-chairman of China's parliament and the former security chief have been targeted.

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