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Official's double-dealing can't be tolerated

2014-08-14 08:14 Global Times Web Editor: Qin Dexing

Zhang Xinzhu, an advisor to the anti-monopoly committee under the State Council, has been dismissed for violations of discipline. State media reported that Zhang accepted large payments from Qualcomm, the US technology company which is under investigation in China for monopolistic behavior. But Zhang believes he was dismissed because he "spoke out for foreign businesses."

Zhang is a research fellow with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, and was one of the 20 advisors to the anti-monopoly committee. He justified himself by comparing his action as "defending a prisoner on death row. Both the plaintiff and defendant are allowed to speak," he said.

It could be deemed reasonable if Zhang helped Qualcomm to deal with the case as an independent scholar without any association with the anti-monopoly committee. But apparently, he was sitting on the fence, engaging in an unprofessional act as a professional scholar.

Besides, the committee has clearly regulated that its members are not allowed to engage in any actions that contradict with their duties as advisors to the committee. Zhang's actions were in violation of this regulation.

It is still unclear if as an advisor Zhang had any access to classified information or gained special privileges. If his capacity as an advisor was the key reason why Qualcomm engaged him, then he probably needs to be investigated by judicial organs.

It must be pointed out that the rules and regulations governing many social spheres are in a chaotic state in China's transitional period. Taking advantage of such a situation, some people with access to social resources and influence have chosen to ignore or circumvent the law. It is possible that Zhang knew his actions might cross the line, but he still chose to do so. Money is probably the only motive that drove him to take this risk.

The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences is a State-owned think tank, and as one of their staff, Zhang should have known that he must get permission from his institute before entering into a business relationship with a foreign company. We don't know whether Zhang is just a special case, and whether most scholars working for State-owned academic institutions hold on to this bottom line.

Zhang's conduct is akin to corruption. If the reports and revelations about him are real, then we can conclude that Zhang took advantage of his position and racked up profits. The case shows that not only government officials, but many people with a certain degree of power and authority can be lured into wrongdoing for material benefits.

China's anti-graft campaign still focuses on government officials, and it will take a while before the campaign reaches other social spheres. But people must keep in mind that they need to improve self-restraint to stay away from corruption, otherwise they will have to pay the price eventually.

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