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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Beijing Party Congress Kicks Off Amid Scandal

RIA Novosti

12:59 08/11/2012 MOSCOW, November 8 (Dan Peleschuk, RIA Novosti) – The Chinese Communist Party congress that opened on Thursday in Beijing will deliver some widely anticipated leadership changes, but it also comes as the country’s elite is under increased scrutiny over corruption.

Chinese President Hu Jintao highlighted the issue in his opening speech.

“No individual or group will be allowed to ride above the law, to replace the law with their might, suppress the law with their words, or to manipulate the law for their personal gains,” he said, the South China Morning Post reported.

The 18th annual congress, which brings together over 2,200 delegates from the 82 million-member party, is expected to be a routine affair, and few surprise appointments are expected.

But the country’s leadership, rotated once every ten years, has faced increased domestic and international criticism over corruption in recent months.

A New York Times investigation published late last month alleged that Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao’s family amassed more than $2 billion during his time in office. Beijing dismissed the story as a politically motivated smear attempt, and temporarily blocked access to the newspaper in China in response.

Former Politburo member Bo Xilai suffered a high-profile fall from grace after his wife was implicated in the 2011 murder of a British businessman. Once tapped for top office, he has been expelled from the party and is now expected to face trial over corruption.

The authorities’ fight against corruption is nothing new: since the 1980s, China has leveled capital punishment on officials found guilty of corruption. Among those executed in the recent past have included deputy mayors and high-ranking justice officials.

Amid promises of Chinese prosperity and economic progress, Hu also sought to respond to international criticism over a broad array of issues, from accusations of human rights violations to its vetoing earlier this year, along with Russia, of UN Security Council sanctions against Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad.

Hu underlined Beijing’s commitment to “steadfastly” defending its sovereignty and “to resist outside pressure.”

“China determines its position and policy on the basis of facts guided by the principles of justice,” he said.

Beijing has traditionally tailored its foreign policy with an eye to domestic thorns in its side. Its ethnic regions, particularly the heavily Muslim western province of Xinjiang and the predominantly Buddhist Tibet have proven particularly troublesome.

Beijing views regular outbreaks of violence in Xinjiang as terrorism rooted in the Uighur ethnic minority, which makes up around 45 percent of the province’s population. The authorities are keen to dampen what they see as an ongoing threat to China's stability and territorial integrity.

Beijing is also involved in a number of territorial and maritime disputes.

“China is in favor of the peaceful settlement of international disputes and all ‘hot’ issues, we are against the use of weapons and the threat of their use, against undermining the legitimate authorities in other countries, and against terrorism in all its forms,” Hu stressed.

The congress opened amid widespread security concerns, which prompted the government to enact tight security measures in and around Beijing. City officials reportedly restricted traffic on main streets, blocked off tourist attractions, and even locked windows in taxi cabs for fear of potential provocation by passengers.

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