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Top Anti-graft Official Vows 'Quick', 'Harsh' Penalties on Embezzlement in Quake Relief

The top anti-graft official of the Communist Party of China (CPC) vowed on Wednesday to give "quick, strict and harsh penalties" on those found withholding or embezzling quake relief fund and supplies.

He Guoqiang, the CPC's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) secretary, said it goes against justice to make profit from a national calamity by withholding and embezzling quake relief funds and supplies.

Once such misconduct is spotted, it must be dealt with quickly and harshly and laid bare in public, he stressed, adding those with dereliction of duty would also be severely punished.

He, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, detailed measures to check wrongdoing and illegal behavior at a national meeting on the monitoring of quake relief fund and goods:

-- Setting up a leading group for supervision and inspection on earthquake relief fund and supplies.

The group is led by He Yong, a member of the Secretariat of the CPC Central Committee and the CCDI deputy secretary. Supervision Minister Ma Wen and the National Audit Office's auditor-general Liu Jiayi are deputy group leaders.

-- Publicizing a series of regulations that were set down according to new situations and tasks.

-- Utilizing forces of all sectors to monitor the management and usage of fund and supplies.

-- Inviting auditors to examine the whole process of management and usage of government fund and social donations for quake-hit areas.

-- Organizing special check-ups to spot and rectify irregularities in a timely manner.

-- Sticking to the principle of fair and transparent and voluntarily make public the sources, amount, variety and destinations of relief supplies.

-- To give quick, strict and harsh penalties on those found withholding or embezzling quake relief fund and supplies.

He said relief fund and donations for the 8.0-magnitude earthquake on May 12 were "unprecedented" in terms of their hefty amounts and sources.

The CPC Central Committee attached great importance to the handling of quake relief fund and supplies, he said.

He urged reinforced efforts in supervision to ensure "clean" disaster relief work and make sure they indeed benefit quake-affected people.

As of Wednesday noon, donations from home and abroad to China's quake-hit regions had reached 34.79 billion yuan (US$4.97 billion), according to the Information Office of the State Council.

The government disaster relief fund for earthquake-stricken areas had hit 19.56 billion yuan (US$2.79 billion) as of 2:00 PM on Wednesday.

The fund included 15.39 billion yuan from the central budget and 4.17 billion yuan from the local budget, the office said.

The death toll in the earthquake that jolted southwestern Sichuan Province rose to 68,109 as of Wednesday noon.

A total of 364,552 people were injured and 19,851 others were missing in the quake.

(Xinhua News Agency May 29, 2008)

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