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China's Politburo Standing Committee member Wang Qishan (C, R), the head of China's anti-corruption watchdog, talks to President Xi Jinping (C, L) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, March 3, 2016. REUTERS/Jason Lee/File Photo(reuters_tickers)
BEIJING (Reuters) - China's top anti-graft watchdog said on Monday that a mechanism to keep officials in check independent of the Communist Party cannot exist in China, as it vowed to build a new supervision system to underpin President Xi Jinping's war on corruption.
Xi has presided over a sweeping campaign to stamp out corruption at all levels of the party, from high-level "tigers" down to low-level "flies", warning that the rot could threaten the party's future if left unchecked.
At a yearly meeting this weekend, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) pledged to create a national supervisory commission and a corresponding national law, as part of a move to reform the oversight system for thousands of party officials.
The new commission would combine the functions of corruption prevention agencies, supervision authorities and departments for handling bribery and dereliction of duty cases, the CCDI said in a communique released late on Sunday.
Pilot programs have been set up in Beijing and in central Shanxi province and eastern Zhejiang province.
But the reforms would stop short of placing power outside the party, CCDI officials said at a briefing on Monday.
"A supervision mechanism that does not accept party leadership, that is so-called independent, cannot exist," Wu Yuliang, deputy head of the CCDI said, speaking at the briefing.
Faith in China's system was in the "blood and DNA" of Chinese people, Wu said, adding that the need for an independent body only applied in countries where there was separation of powers.
Both Xi and Wang Qishan, head of the CCDI, have recently highlighted the need to deal with corruption within the commission's own ranks, the subject of a television show aired by the state broadcaster last week.
Wang previously has likened the difficulty of self-supervision to a doctor attempting to perform surgery on himself.
The CCDI's responded in its yearly plenum over the weekend by tightening internal supervision, introducing extra internal checks on the investigation process, and creating provisions for evidence collection and case reviews.
"Within the entire national and party supervision system, internal party supervision is number one - if internal party supervision fails once, other forms of supervision will necessarily fail," deputy head of the supervision department, Xiao Pei, said at the briefing.
Rights groups have queried the efficacy of internal supervision and have said that the lack of oversight in the party's internal investigations has allowed the campaign to make use of torture and extra-legal detentions.
CCDI officials reiterated the importance of previously floated key platforms for fighting graft - a dedicated anti-corruption law and disclosure of top officials' assets - but gave no time-frame for introducing them.
"Making official's assets public is an important measure for preventing corruption at the source," Zhu Guoxian, head of the CCDI's propaganda department, told Reuters in an interview, adding that "to make everything public is a systematic undertaking".
(Reporting by Christian Shepherd; Editing by Nick Macfie)