On 1 November 2015, the Ninth Amendment to the PRC Criminal Law took effect. The Amendment created additional grounds of liability and imposed harsher penalties for corruption offences. All businesses operating in China should be aware of these changes.

The important changes include the following:

  • criminal liability arises on those who give bribes to “close relatives” or other persons “closely” related to State functionaries;
  • while a “close relative” is defined as “husband, wife, father, mother, son, daughter and siblings”, there is no definition of who might otherwise be “closely related” to a State functionary;
  • monetary fines are imposed on all individuals convicted of giving or receiving bribes, with judicial discretion likely to result in significant fines to act as a punitive response to the offence and as a general deterrent measure;
  • the current law, which set monetary thresholds to determine the sentence of a convicted bribe taker, has been changed with the discretionary concepts of:
    • “a relatively large amount” with fixed terms of imprisonment of not more than 3 years and/or a fine;
    • “a huge amount” with fixed terms of imprisonment of not less than 3 years and not more than 10 years and/or a fine and/or confiscation of assets; and
    • “an especially huge amount” with fixed terms of imprisonment of not less than 10 years or life imprisonment and/or a fine and/or confiscation of assets and if the conduct causes a “serious loss to the State and its people, life imprisonment or death and confiscation of assets.

All Australia and other businesses operating in China need to take account of the seriousness in which the current government is pursuing anti-corruption initiatives.