HSE University Anti-Corruption Portal
China to Impose Stricter Penalties on Non-Public Officials for Bribery

China adopted the Law of December 26, 2020 “On Amendments to the Criminal Code of the People’s Republic of China”, which, in particular, modifies penalties for corruption crimes committed by non-public officials. 

The amendments that will come into force on March 1, 2021 stipulate that:

1. The penalty imposed on non-public officials for demanding or receiving a bribe is modified as follows:

а) In the case of a “considerable” bribe an imprisonment of up to five years or detention are substituted by an imprisonment of up to three years or detention and a fine; 

b) In the event of a “large” bribe an imprisonment of three to ten years and a fine are now applied instead of an imprisonment of up to five years and a fine as was previously the case. 

2. The penalty in the form of an imprisonment of over ten years, up to life imprisonment, and a fine is imposed on non-public officials for demanding or receiving a “particularly large” bribe. 

Therefore, with the adoption of the amendments non-public officials who previously faced lighter punishments for the afore-mentioned crimes will now incur the same penalties as public officials*. However, such additional sanctions as the confiscation of property and death penalty for the crimes that seriously damage the national/public interest can be also imposed on public officials.

The amount of a “considerable”, “large” and “particularly large” bribe has not been determined yet. The Supreme People’s Court and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate are expected to provide detailed interpretation of these terms after the Law enters into force. 

*In China, officials are divided into public and non-public depending on their functions rather than on the body/organisation where they work. In this context, it is highly likely that low and mid-level servants of public entities and enterprises will not be considered as public officials under domestic legislation. For instance, corrupt payments to the doctors who prescribe medicines are as a rule regarded as bribery of non-public officials, whilst an illicit reward to the administration of a hospital is considered as bribery of public officials. 

Criminal prosecution

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