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中国或应考虑特赦贪官

习近平自2013年担任中国国家主席以来领导的高调反腐运动,无疑取得了巨大成果。在这场打击面较广的净化公共生活的运动中,估计已有数万官员——既有位高权重的“老虎”,又包括更多低级别的“苍蝇”——受到了警告或惩处。

这种变化可能对奢侈品供应商和高端酒店业造成了沉重打击,它们曾为中国经济车轮更快地转动提供了各种“润滑剂”,并从中获利颇丰。但是,此次反腐运动受到了广大中国百姓的欢迎,他们将腐败视为中国许多问题——从环境破坏到灾难性的城市规划——的根源。如今,商业环境也变得更加干净、更可预测了。

因此,现在提出北京的领导层应不应该在反腐运动中考虑某种形式的特赦这个问题,听起来可能有些不合时宜。很少有人会认为,中国需要更多的“润滑剂”,但是,对已经通过非法手段涂抹到官员手上的“润肤剂”闭一只眼,是有体面的理由的。那些善于解读中共文件的人士,甚至察觉到了官员圈子对这种想法的一些热情。据报道,中国负责反腐的最高官员王岐山上月表示,现在还没到考虑特赦的时候——此言相当于默认将来有可能采纳这一想法。

中国不会是第一个在井喷式经济增长(推动这种增长的商业行为可能在法律上并非总是无懈可击)之后尝试这样做的国家。1977年,香港颁布了部分特赦令,免去对官员发生在特赦日之前的一般贪腐行为的惩罚(严重犯罪仍要追究)。与此同时,香港创建了一个特别权力机构,以前所未有的力度追查新的贪腐案件。

这是一个明智的选择。若没有特赦,检察官很容易陷入调查过往违法行为的泥潭,妨碍他们对当前腐败行为的查处。此外,警察系统和许多其他公共机构中有如此多的雇员都卷入了贪腐,如果没有特赦,一些关键的机构将会出现大出血式的损兵折将。

在中国,腐败已是如此猖獗,以至于绝少有哪位官员敢称自己没有污点。有些官员刚在台上参与了反腐败斗争,讲完话却发现自己也被调查和双规。在有些地方,反腐调查如此有震慑力,以至官员们担心那些基于正当理由做出的决策也会成为目标,尤其是如果后来有第三方被发现从中获益的话。在某些地区,政府几近陷入停滞。

国有企业是此次反腐运动中受打击最严重的部门。国企高管(事实上的国家公务员)一直试图藏匿于雷达侦测范围之外。一些国企高层领导被裁撤,已经阻碍到中国一些最大型企业的决策。私营企业家则突然发现,自己要回答在哪里挖到第一桶金的问题。许多企业家正把自己的财富转移到海外。严厉的反腐调查造成的摩擦势必带来经济成本,这类成本与杜绝腐败带来的收益间的利弊,需要得到权衡。

尽管看似不合情理,但对过往腐败的特赦可能是一种“必要之恶”。这样做也将在一定程度上消除人们的一种担忧,即这场反腐运动只是掩盖政治清洗的一件便利工具。然而,正如香港那样,任何特赦都应配合其他措施,以提高透明度,如官员财产公开,以及媒体获得监督公务员生活方式的更大自由。热衷于将官员送上法庭,并非总是提高权力运行透明度的最佳方式。

译者/何黎

本文原载FT中文网 ,下页为英文版

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The high profile anti-corruption campaign led by Xi Jinping since he became president of China in 2013 has undoubtedly made its mark. An estimated tens of thousands of officials — both highly placed “tigers” and more lowly “flies” — have been reprimanded or punished in the far-reaching drive to clean up public life.
 
This change may have delivered a blow to the purveyors of luxury trinkets and high-end hospitality, who profited handsomely from providing the lubricants needed to keep the wheels of the economy turning ever faster. But it has gone down well with the broad mass of Chinese, who see corruption as the root of many of China’s problems, from environmental damage to disastrous urban planning. Commercial life, too, is now cleaner and more predictable.
 
So it might seem odd to ask whether it is time for the Beijing leadership to consider some sort of amnesty in the anti-corruption campaign. Few would argue that more grease is what China needs, but there is a respectable argument for turning a blind eye to illicit emollients that have already been applied to officials’ palms. Those skilled in decoding the pronouncements of Chinese apparatchiks even detect some enthusiasm for the idea in official circles. Wang Qishan, the anti-corruption tsar, reportedly said last month that this was not the right time to consider an amnesty – a tacit acknowledgment that it is an idea whose day may come.
 
China would not be the first country to try such a move after a spurt of growth propelled by business practices that may not always have been legally unimpeachable. In 1977 Hong Kong introduced a partial amnesty, sparing officials from punishment for run-of-the-mill graft that took place before that date (serious crimes were still pursued). At the same time, the territory created a special authority to pursue new cases with unprecedented vigour.
 
It was a wise choice. Without it, prosecutors could easily have become bogged down investigating historical wrongdoing, blunting their influence on current behaviour. Moreover, in the police force and many other public bodies, so many employees were knee-deep in corruption that without the amnesty, vital agencies would have haemorrhaged staff.
 
In China, corruption has been so rampant that there is barely an official who can claim to be untainted. Some have participated in the fight against corruption, only to find themselves felled by investigations and reprimands. Investigations are sometimes so energetic that officials fear being targeted for decisions taken in good faith, especially if a third party is later seen to have benefited from them. In some areas, government is grinding to a halt.
 
State-owned enterprises are among those hardest hit by the campaign. Their top executives, de facto civil servants, have been trying to stay under the radar. The removal of senior leaders of state enterprises has impeded decision-making at some of the country’s biggest companies. Private-sector entrepreneurs suddenly find themselves answering questions about where they happened upon their first pot of gold. Many are sending their wealth abroad. The frictions created by these zealous investigations carry an economic cost that has to be weighed against the benefits of stamping out corruption.
 
While it might seem unconscionable, an amnesty for past corruption may be a necessary evil. It would also go some way towards eliminating the concern that the anti-corruption campaign is merely a convenient instrument for disguising a political purge. Yet, as in Hong Kong, any amnesty should coincide with other measures to promote transparency: public disclosure of assets held by Chinese officials and greater freedom for the media to scrutinise the lifestyle of public servants. Prosecutorial zeal is not always the best way to improve transparency in the exercise of power.
 
The writer is managing partner of Dechert, an international law firm, in China
 



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