The Portfolio Committee met with a delegation from the Ethics Committee of the Peoples Republic of China Parliament to discuss various issues, such as governing in the interests of multi-ethnic communities, dealing with corruption in government, meeting the threat of terrorism, promoting gender equality in leadership positions, religious freedom and the alleviation of poverty.
The Chinese delegation explained the ethnic diversity of the country, and its political and government structures under the leadership of the Communist Party. China practiced democracy and ruled the country by law. Autonomous regions had the power to draft and legislate their own laws to be applied within the autonomous region, and to manage their own socio-economic welfare. Although all ethnic groups were equal, the minority ethnic groups enjoyed some preferential treatment based on law, as the country tried to accelerate their socio-economic development. China advocated national solidarity as the underlying principle for solving issues among its ethnic groups.
Members of the Portfolio Committee asked about China’s relationship with the Dalai Lama over the Tibet independence issue, its implementation of the death penalty – and what types of corruption merited capital punishment – and how China identified ethical personalities for high ranking positions.
The Chairperson said the Portfolio Committee would accept the delegation’s invitation to undertake a fact-finding visit to China, and commented that both countries had a common interest in fighting against poverty, inequality and unemployment.
Ethics Committee of Peoples Republic of China
Mr Li Jingtian, Chairman: Ethics Committee, National People’s Congress (NPC) of China, said that from the macro perspective, China accorded honorable respect to the late President Mandela for his endeavours in the cause of anti-apartheid, liberalisation, equality and freedom for all South Africans.
President Mandela was respected by people from all walks of life because the world had the common pursuit of equality, freedom, justice and inclusivity. Although the world may have such a common cause, there also existed diversity among people due to different cultures, religious beliefs, qualities and personalities endowed from nature, which in turn resulted in different social systems, cooperative governance and development. The social system that a country pursued could be decided only by the society according to its own national conditions and circumstances.
South Africa had its own multi-party system, bi-cameral system, executive branch, judiciary and legislative branch. China was under the leadership of the Communist Party of China, where various political parties consulted and took part in the overall agenda of the party and also had one single organ of highest power. With these different social systems, all parties learnt and respected each other. China and South Africa enjoyed a good bilateral relationship, as both the previous and current presidents had made valuable contributions. The cooperation from both parliaments played a strategic role in the relationship between the two countries.
Since 2006, the Chinese NPC had maintained the requisite exchange mechanism with the Parliament of South Africa. Through this mechanism, both countries shared concerns, information and ideologies which were useful when drafting legislation and policies.
The NPC consisted of the leadership of the Communist Party of China, practiced democracy and ruled the country by law. It was the highest organ of state power, with its deputies elected from various provinces and municipalities, autonomous regions and army sectors. Its term was for five years, within which there was a preliminary session hosted annually.
The NPC was currently in its twelfth term. There were 2 987 deputies, among whom were 409 deputies from ethnic minority groups, which accounted for 13.69% of the overall deputies. China had 55 ethnic minority groups, with each group represented in the NPC. The Standing Committee of the NPC was a permanent organization, which executed the legislative power of the country.
The NPC had nine Portfolio Committees. These were responsible for Ethnic Affairs; Law; Financial and Economic Affairs; Education; Science; Culture; Foreign Affairs; and Overseas Chinese Committees. When the NPC was not in session, all the committees reported to the NPC Standing Committee.
China had 56 ethnic groups, with the Hung ethnic group having 90% of the overall Chinese population, and minority ethnic groups accounting for about 110 million people. About 18 of these minority ethnic groups had a population of more than one million people, another 18 had a population between 100 000 to one million, 13 had a population of between 10 000 to 100 000, and six had a population of under 10 000.
The ethnic policy was applied according to the Autonomous Region Policy, which meant that under the holistic approach of the government, areas where there were more than one ethnic group, they were governed under the region’s autonomous policy.
Autonomous regions had the power to draft and legislate their own laws to be applied within the autonomous region, and to manage their own socio-economic welfare. Although all ethnic groups were equal, the minority ethnic groups enjoyed some preferential treatment based on law, as the country tried to accelerate their socio-economic development. China advocated national solidarity as the underlying principle for solving issues among its ethnic groups.
The Ethics Committee of the Peoples Republic of China Parliament extended an invitation to the South Africa Portfolio Committee to visit China at a convenient time.
The Chairperson said that China was a big country, with some of the provinces’ populations equal to South Africa’s national population. The Portfolio Committee, having worked with China, had learnt how the Chinese dealt with issues related to poverty and corruption. According to recent statistics from the Statistician General, half of the population of South Africa was living in poverty. As such, poverty alleviation should be the greatest concern of all nations worldwide. Unemployment among the youth, and social inequality, also remained a challenge in South Africa.
Although the South African Parliament’s mandate was to legislate laws, as part of separation of powers it did play a supervisory role with the judiciary over the executive, which brought about healthy tension. South Africa could learn from China’s approach on how it dealt with gender inequality, ethics and corruption in its leadership sphere. As a result, the Committee hopes that the good relationship between the two governments would extend to all the sectors of society.
The Portfolio Committee accepted China’s invitation, and would visit some of the key areas of interest in China in order to learn how to improve the quality of life in South Africa. There were 400 members in South Africa’s national assembly, with 13 political parties. The Africa National Congress (ANC) was the largest party, with 62% of the vote, followed by the Democratic Alliance (DA). Parliament was working towards addressing the issues facing South Africans.
Mr N Masondo (ANC) expressed his concern regarding the reported ethnic tensions in China’s relations with the Dalai Lama. He asked about the current tension levels and how they were being managed from an ongoing perspective. Also, what kind of ethical and corruption issues occurred in China, and how were they managed?
Mr Li Jingtian said that although China was a unified multi-ethnic group country, with some regions with an autonomous policy, they were still part of China. The Dalai Lama issue was not a simple issue of ethnicity, but one that related to the unification of China against a separatist plot in China. The Dalai Lama group’s objective was to secede Tibet from the sovereign territory of the People’s Republic of China. This could not be allowed, since the separatist group’s objective may not represent the wishes of the people of Tibet.
Regarding the fight against corruption in China, all countries during development would encounter this vice. Although corruption cases did exist, they had been met with public condemnation and also attention from the international arena. The Communist Party under President Xi Jinping had adopted a zero tolerance to corruption. China fought corruption among high scheme actors, referred to as ‘tigers’, small scheme actors referred to as ‘flies,’ and those who were running abroad to escape prosecution, otherwise referred to as ‘foxes.’ Under the current legislation, the fight against corruption was being won, as it inspired fear among those tempted. Through international cooperation, China had managed to extradite fugitives back to China for prosecution. However, due to political reasons, some countries hid accused corrupt persons from China’s prosecution.
Mr Masondo asked which type of corruption cases merited capital punishment, how they dealt with corruption cases relating to the scheme actors, and also the rate of success in prosecuting those who had fled outside China’s jurisdiction.
Mr Su Xiaoyum, Member: Ethnic Affairs Committee, NPC, said that China’s fight against corruption was a consistent and persistent approach based on law. The application of capital punishment was decided by the Highest Court in China, the Supreme People’s Court, based on the penal law adopted by the People’s Congress. China maintained a persistent attitude in prosecuting any person accused of corruption, irrespective of whether they were in the country or not. Some countries were cooperating, and China was working towards achieving full cooperation from the others.
Mr Li Jingtian said that in the beginning, to show China’s resolution on the death penalty, it sentenced to death those people who were convicted of taking large sums in bribes. Later on, due to expressed concerns from the international community and also the reduction of high corruption cases, very few cases had resulted in the death penalty although the penalty still remained. Convicted felons were now sentenced to life imprisonment, parole or limited period sentencing. High corruption actors were convicted to life imprisonment without parole.
The Chairperson asked how China identified ethical personalities for high ranking positions.
Mr Hao Guicheng, Director General: Office of the Ethnic Affairs Committee, NPC, said that there was a training centre for persons from various cadres, such as the central party’s organisational department, and city’s and township’s level organisational department. The training’s objective was to enhance the skill of the trainees in dealing with organisational issues.
The party school mechanism of the Communist Party of China was an important tool for China in selecting party cadres. There were various levels of training, including theory, ideology and ethnic training, principles training and governance, to enable members to abide by the party’s ideology. The trainees were first evaluated on their ideologies, personality qualities, professional knowledge and qualifications, and their practical application to the people of China. The retirement age for provincial leaders was 60 years, and any person close to retirement was not included in the training.
Mr C Matsepe (DA) said that the Portfolio Committee had learnt a lot, and he was looking forward to honoring the invitation to visit China.
Mr Masondo expressed his interest in the ethnic equality existing in China, and asked how religious diversity was managed, and terrorist acts related to religion. Did the ethnic minority groups experience some form of preferential treatment?
Mr Hao Guicheng said that the Communist Party, as well as the Government, had placed great focus on issues relating to ethnic diversity. Religious issues were common worldwide, and all religions were practiced and protected equally in China. Religion was approached under three principles. Firstly, it was managed, based on law -- the people had freedom to practice any religion, during which they should weave themselves into China’s own social, economic and cultural fabric. Terrorism was a common enemy, and there were cases that involved religion. However, China was dealing carefully with religiously-related terrorist acts.
The law of the autonomous region of the People’s Republic of China acted as the primary legislation, where supporting policies for minority groups were drafted. The Communist Party, together with the central government, had been paying close attention to ethnic minority regions, with the President of China also visiting the regions on several occasions.
Mr Hao Guicheng asked about the mandate of the Portfolio Committee on Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA). He also wanted to know whether there were any tensions among the three arms of government, and how the government was dealing with the 50% poverty level.
The Chairperson said that poverty alleviation was a major priority for the government through social grants, among other means. He asked how China managed to addressed poverty, and how it had developed rapidly over a short span of time.
He said that executive power in South Africa had to be checked. However, some of the members of the executive were more resourced and equipped than the Members of Parliament who conducted oversight. There could be tension on the part of the legislators in the governing party who had to perform an oversight function over their fellow Members in the executive branch, yet it was in both their interests that their political party won elections.
At the moment, the Committee had to consider two reports. One was related to a Bill dealing with traditional leadership, and the other to religious, cultural and linguistic affairs. Religious institutions had come out in opposition to the Bill, but it was the Committee’s objective to ensure that religion was not used to abuse the vulnerable in society. It was not an attempt to control religion, as it aimed to protect people from their own ignorance and gullibility. Traditional leadership within South Africa also brought about certain complexities, as culture played an important role in the community.
Mr Mthethwa asked whether there were various different political groups in China and whether they contested for power in parliament.
Mr Li Jingtian said that aside from the Communist Party of China, which was the ruling party, there were eight other democratic political parties which were also members of the Standing Committee of the NPC. Among the 14 members of the leadership of the NPC, nine were affiliated to the Communist Party, while five were from the other political parties.
Mr Mthethwa asked whether there had been any cases of wrongful conviction for capital offence cases and, if any, how had they been dealt with.
Mr Li Jingtian said that each case was determined based on facts, evidence and the law. Investigations were conducted by the police, then prosecuted by the prosecutor and judged by the court. Each sector acted as an oversight over the other. However, despite this, there still were cases of wrongful conviction. The state provided a national compensation to the individual or his family.
Mr Mthethwa asked how China dealt with the cases of wrongful convictions for capital offences where those convicted had already been executed by the state.
Mr Li Jingtian said there were no specific criteria to deal with all issues, and as such they were handled on a case by case basis, where compensation was based the circumstances of the case.
Ms B Maluleke (ANC) asked whether there was gender representation in the Chinese government, and whether women were given an opportunity to play leadership roles in the country.
Mr Li Jingtian said that since the founding of the Communist Party, gender equality had always been encouraged so that women could take part in all sectors of government.
The Chairperson thanked the members of the Ethics Committee of the Peoples Republic of China Parliament for engaging with the Portfolio Committee, and commented that both countries had a common interest in fighting against poverty, inequality and unemployment.
The meeting was adjourned.
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