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Chinese legislature drops adding accepting gift money as crime

2014-11-13 09:04 China Daily Web Editor: Si Huan

Chinese legislature drops adding accepting gift money as crime

China's top legislator ruled out the possibility of adding a widely discussed prohibition on government officials accepting "gift money" into the country's Criminal Law.

The National People's Congress said on its website that an additional crime of accepting "gift money" provoked controversy and needs further discussion on whether it should be included into the law.

It is a tradition for the Chinese to offer friends gifts and envelopes filled with cash on special occasions. The cash, called "gift money", providing benevolent financial assistance, has been used as means for bribery in recent years.

Under the current law, no criminal charges can be applied to accepting gifts or money unless the behavior is proved to be linked with abusing power. Rotten officials have sought to defend themselves from bribery charges by claiming that the bribes they are accused of accepting are gifts from friends.

The difficulty in defining "gift money" in a corruption case gives officials the opportunity to take bribes under the excuse of accepting "gifts" from friends. Anti-graft agencies are often required to collect convincing evidence to prove the link between the "gift" and the abuse of power.

To reinforce China's ongoing anti-graft campaign, the legislative authority published draft amendments to the law for public opinion, due by Dec 3, a number of which increase penalties in corruption cases and redefine the sentencing criteria.

The draft amendments proposed to impose monetary fines against all individuals that are convicted of engaging in corruption to replace the punishment only on legal entities.

The draft added a new crime of offering bribes to close relatives or individuals with close relationships to government officials.

Jiang Ming'an, a law professor at Peking University, said current criminal law sentencing guidelines are specifically defined based on the value of the bribes but the items in the proposed revision give little scope for considering other circumstances such as the causes and consequences of the crime.

Those who embezzle or take bribes over 100,000 yuan ($12,660) will be sentenced to prison sentences ranging from 10 years to life. If the case is "particularly serious," the criminals can be sentenced to death, according to the current law.

Zhao Bingzhi, a law professor at Beijing Normal University, said the amendments enable the law to curb corruption in a more comprehensive way and the specific sentencing standards based on the amount of the bribes are likely to be written into judicial interpretations issued by the supreme court.

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