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“These members of the elite do not have faith in the long-term future of the Communist Party, so along with money, they also take along with them state secrets or intellectual property rights regarding high technology and so forth,” said Willy Lam, an expert on Chinese politics at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. “I think this is what they’re most worried about. This exodus of members of the elite could compromise state security.”

Some commentaries in Chinese media have said mere demotions or forced retirement may be too lenient a treatment for naked officials, and have urged full-fledged investigations into graft. Others have noted that some officials’ children or spouses might have legitimate reasons to have overseas residency, for jobs or business.

The provincial crackdown is a pilot project that likely will be rolled out to other parts of China, said Mao Zhaohui, head of the Anti-Graft Research Center at Beijing’s Renmin University.

“The move shows that the central authorities are strengthening political discipline,” Mao said.

In January, the party issued regulations saying that “naked officials” would not be eligible for promotion. But critics noted that enforcement depended on the officials’ own reporting on the status of their spouse and children, and that they can simply lie about it.