BEIJING, April 29 (Reuters) - China's Supreme Court said on Tuesday that all cases involving early release or parole for officials sentenced for graft must be done in an open and transparent way, to prevent underhand means being used to secure lighter sentences.
Early release or parole hearings for corrupt officials, mafia cases or those involving financial crimes must be open to the public and members of parliament or other well-regarded people must attend, the court said, in new rules carried by major state media outlets.
The move is to prevent "judicial corruption" in such cases, the court said, saying that the problem of guilty people bribing judges for reduced sentences or release on parole had become "quite acute".
There had also been cases of people "using their personal influence or social connections" to get out of jail early without showing any sign of repentence, the court added.
"Making announcements to the public will have an important effect of oversight for strictly standardising sentence reduction or release on patrol for criminal cases for officials," it said.
It said that previously there had been no clearly defined rules of the process of sentence reductions or parole hearings.
Some local courts had also misunderstood the rule that people can only be considered for early release after serving at least three years, to take it as meaning that after three years the sentence had to be reduced, the supreme court said.
China has long struggled to rein in legal corruption, in a country where judges are badly paid and powerful officials or businesspeople can exert undue influence.
State media said in February that authorities were looking for a former drinks tycoon who bribed his way out of jail and fled the country after being sentenced to 15 years in prison for embezzling millions of dollars in public funds.
President Xi Jinping has launched a sweeping crackdown on corruption since taking power, warning as others have before him that it is a threat to the ruling Communist Party's survival.
The party has sought to curtail everything from bribery and gift-giving to lavish banquets to assuage public anger over graft and extravagance. However, the party has shown no sign of wanting to set up an independent body to fight graft.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard and Li Hui; Editing by Ron Popeski)