To expand the scope of its anti-graft campaigns, China established a super-sized anti-corruption agency called the National Supervision Commission (NSC) in March. Operating alongside the central government and above the judiciary, the new body was designed to oversee the use of power by all public personnel in the country, as a supplement to the Party’s own powerful anti-corruption body, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI). In theory, the new commission is supposed to work outside the court system and can only deny its own detainees’ access to a lawyer, but signs have emerged that its exercise of power is alarmingly unchecked.
- A recent case in Hunan Province raised concerns about the agency’s “bloated power.” The South China Morning Post reports that Chen Jieren, an outspoken political commentator and former journalist, was detained by police after publishing two articles critical of senior local officials. While in custody, he was denied access to his lawyer and was told by the police that the commission had launched a bribery investigation into him and his family.
- In May, a former government contract worker died in custody after being held the local office of the commision in Fujian Province, according to Caixin Global (paywall).
- Some legal analysts and human rights experts are concerned about the agency’s abuses of power. “Mistreating suspects is likely to hinder, rather than help, the purported campaign to fight corruption,” Sophie Richardson from Human Rights Watch told Business Insider, adding that the way the NSC deals with suspects might cause disillusionment with the anti-graft crackdown.
- A long-standing question still remains unanswered: Who will, ultimately, supervise the supervisors? Jamie P. Horsley wrote, “For two decades, the CCP has been promoting legal restraints on the exercise of state power — in part, to counter corruption — through such mechanisms as official transparency, civic participation, and government accountability enforced by more-professional courts. However, the National Supervision Commission appears to be exempted from those restraints.”