December 8, 2015 / 5:59 AM / 2 years ago

Wanted: cosmopolitan Chinese graft busters to chase suspects abroad

BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s efforts to take its anti-graft campaign global are being crimped by a serious lack of officials familiar with foreign languages and laws, the country’s top newspaper said on Tuesday.

China has pursued and brought home more than 600 suspected corrupt officials this year, in a strategy dubbed “Operation Fox Hunt”, as it widens a crackdown on deep-rooted graft launched by President Xi Jinping three years ago.

More than a dozen of the top 100 suspects China targeted with an Interpol red notice in April have also been repatriated.

But its efforts have long been hampered by Western nations that balk at signing extradition deals with China, partly out of concern about its judicial system.

Rights groups say Chinese authorities use torture and the death penalty is common in corruption cases.

The ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily admitted that China’s international anti-graft cooperation was “still not perfected” and there were “many blank spaces”.

There is an urgent need to “massively strengthen” the ranks of those working to try and bring corruption suspects back to China, the paper said in a commentary.

Such individuals need multi-disciplined skills, the most basic of which is an ability to speak foreign languages, it added.

“It can be seen that experts in international anti-corruption cooperation are still a scarce commodity,” it said, calling for specialized training programs to bridge the gap.

China does not understand enough about the legal systems of other countries, especially those that are very different, it added.

“We need to organize academics and pragmatic experts to increase their research into this,” the paper said.

China has already had to alter the way it chases down those suspected of hiding overseas.

This year it appointed an urbane, fluent English-speaking diplomat to head its team in charge of repatriating graft suspects who have fled abroad.

On a visit to London last month, he told Reuters that China had changed its tactics after some countries objected to Beijing’s practice of sending investigators to track down suspects.

Western diplomats in Beijing say their governments have been infuriated by China sending agents to their countries to coax suspects to return, and that if China wants their help it must use methods that are legal and above-board, and go through their courts.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

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