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China rules out abuse, woos foreign diplomats in graft fight

By Christian Shepherd

By Christian Shepherd

BEIJING (Reuters) - China pledged to banish abuse in graft investigations and urged foreign diplomats to help "weave a cooperative network against corruption", as it tries to build international support for President Xi Jinping's four-year war on graft.

Xi has vowed to fight deep-rooted graft at all levels of the ruling Communist Party until officials "dare not, cannot and don't want to" be corrupt, and has warned that failure to stamp out the rot could threaten the party's future.

China has taken the battle global, publishing a list of the 100 most-wanted corruption suspects who have fled abroad to countries such as the United States, Canada and Australia, often taking their wealth with them.

Authorities have said they clawed back 2.3 billion yuan ($334 million) in graft proceeds from more than 70 countries and regions in the first 11 months of 2016.

But China has struggled to win full cooperation in tracking and repatriating such fugitives, with foreign countries blaming an under-developed legal system, and concern about rights abuses, for their reluctance to sign extradition treaties.

In an unusual step, Wu Yuliang, deputy head of the top graft watchdog, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI), briefed representatives of 113 diplomatic missions and 13 international bodies on Thursday about efforts to fight graft, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

Rights groups have accused Chinese authorities of using torture and illegal detention during graft investigations as part of an extra-judicial detention and integration system known as "shuanggui".

Abuse, insults, beatings, and "disguised" corporal punishment are forbidden and food, rest and medical treatment must be provided during investigations, according to provisional regulations published on the CCDI website on Friday.

Though force has always been technically forbidden, the government has acknowledged problems with torture in its legal system, which it has vowed to correct.

'MAJOR REFORM'

The rules, passed by the CCDI at a meeting this month, also set limits on interrogation periods, require that sessions are recorded, and explicitly ban threats, coercion and evidence tampering.

Efforts to strengthen supervision constitute a "major political reform", Wu said, giving examples such as tougher laws against corruption and the establishment of a national supervisory body.

The campaign to return corrupt officials and other overseas fugitives adhered to the law, not only that of China, but also other countries, Wu added.

Looking to allay doubts about China's legal processes, Liu Jianchao, who leads efforts to bring home corruption suspects, said details of 105 repatriation cases had been released, according to a transcript on the watchdog's website.

He also offered to arrange for diplomats to visit corruption suspects in detention or under trial, saying he hoped to dispel concern and spur more countries to sign extradition pacts.

China's top legal body this month clarified the procedure to seize the ill-gotten gains of corruption suspects who are dead or have gone missing, in a step state media hailed as key to recovery of overseas assets.

(Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Randy Fabi)

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