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    Aug 14, 2014

    Jail tours as warning to Chinese officials


    CHINA'S prisons are not just for criminals anymore. The anti-corruption campaign has used China's correctional facilities to warn officials, senior managers of state-owed enterprises, and their families of the dangers of corruption and abuse of power.

    This comes as more high-level officials are nabbed, including former security czar Zhou Yongkang and businessman Wang Zongnan. Yesterday, the former head of one of China's largest banks was charged.

    Tao Liming, former president of the Postal Savings Bank of China, is accused of crimes including bribe-taking and embezzlement of public funds, the Supreme People's Procuratorate said in a statement.

    The state-owned Postal Savings Bank, a spin-off from China's sprawling post office system, boasts the country's biggest network of banking outlets.

    Some 200 senior officials from the country's top economic planning body were given an up-close view of life behind bars, the Communist Party of China's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) revealed last week.

    The officials from the National Development and Reform Committee of China were selected as they held "high-risk" positions, meaning they are more likely to be tempted to go astray.

    The officials were shown life in two prisons, one in Beijing and the other in Hebei province. The visitors heard stories from former officials who are now incarcerated, many of whom explained how they went wrong and the suffering they caused their families.

    In China, prisons have become a popular anti-corruption tool. In April, the Ministry of Industry and Information took some of its personnel to a prison in Hebei province.

    Similar tours have been arranged by some local governments and state-owned enterprises since the Communist Party's 18th Party Congress in 2012. In some cases, officials' family members were also taken along.

    Nearly 340,000 officials have visited Beijing Prison since the anti-corruption educational tours began in 2008, according to an article published by CCDI last August.

    Officials quoted by the CCDI have described the visits as a vivid lesson, reminding them to keep a cool head and resist corruption.

    Still, some officials are clearly not deterred by a glimpse of "the inside".

    Chen Xinxiang, head of a state-owned investment and construction company in central China's Hubei province, was sacked and put under investigation for suspected disciplinary violation on July 18, less than a month after his trip to a local prison.

    Chinese business and political circles are riddled with corruption - a situation that has repeatedly been singled out by top leaders as the biggest danger facing the ruling Communist Party.

    President Xi Jinping has pledged to root out high-ranking "tigers" as well as low-level "flies" in his much-publicised anti-graft sweep.

    But critics say there have been no systematic changes that could root out corruption fundamentally.