News / Asia

China Graft Crackdown Highlights Weibo's Power

Employees work at their desks at a Sina Weibo office in Beijing's leading microblog site, (File photo).
Employees work at their desks at a Sina Weibo office in Beijing's leading microblog site, (File photo).
On Sunday, a court in China is scheduled to issue the verdict in the high-profile trial of fallen political star Bo Xilai. The ruling comes amid what appears to be a widening crackdown on official graft by China's new Communist Party leaders. Based on the cases already under review, Chinese President Xi Jinping’s crackdown on “tigers and flies” - high and low-ranking corrupt officials - appears to be just getting started.

In the short space of several weeks, China’s Communist Party has announced more than a dozen corruption investigations. One of the highest ranking targets is Jiang Jiemin, the former head of a central government body that oversees state owned enterprises.

A review by VOA of some 40 corruption cases reported since last year shows that most were not the result of a government crackdown, but were instead first revealed online or through media reports.

Zhu Ruifeng is a citizen journalist who has exposed dozens of corrupt officials online. “In China, the Internet is currently the best force to drive the fight against corruption, in particular Weibo. Weibo’s most impressive feature is its reach; in 10 minutes a post can be retransmitted up to 100,000 to 200,000 times," said Zhu. "But this strength of the Internet made the government realize it needed to control it, they think the fight against corruption must be led by the government and not by citizens or journalists.”

China’s government recently announced new regulations that threaten bloggers and Internet users with jail time if there are found guilty of “online rumor mongering.” The rules have raised concerns among some that the power of the Internet to fight corruption could soon end.

Zhu said he is not concerned. He said that although his website and Weibo have recently been shut down, that has done little to stop his investigations into corrupt officials. Besides, he added, he has always made sure his accusations are accurate.

“Since 2011 we put under scrutiny at least 50…officials and 33 grassroots officials. We don’t think we have experience any action by the government, it’s more retaliation by those corrupt we have exposed. All the people we expose immediately seek to shut down our website, then try to buy us off, they threaten us and last they try to defame us,” stated Zhu.

Doug Young, a journalism professor at Shanghai’s Fudan University said the government's new policy appears to be an attempt to get people to think twice before they accuse someone of being corrupt.

“The way things work in China with the social media, if I put out some accusation against an official that I completely made up and maybe I’m only 20 percent certain, that accusation will get forwarded hundreds of times and thousands of times and maybe I have no proof or very little evidence that this really happened but suddenly that person becomes guilty in the internet realm, when maybe he didn’t really do anything,” explained Young.

Just recently, the Communist Party’s disciplinary commission launched its own website to report on investigations and to receive tips on corrupt officials. The Communist Party’s disciplinary commission carries out investigations into party members and high-ranking officials and largely determines their innocence or guilt even before they are brought to a court room.

The party’s website allows individuals to use their real names or post anonymous tips about corrupt officials, but only the individual who raised concerns can follow up on his or her complaint.

Ren Jianming, a professor at Beijing’s Tsinghua University said that the website is a step in the right direction, but legal reform still remains key.

“To evaluate the government’s resolution to fight corruption we have to see at how much it wants to reform the shortcomings and problems of our legal system. Of course the level of openness on officials assets is an important aspect to show how resolute the government is. But I think that between these two efforts, the most important thing to show government’s commitment and to really cut down the spread of corruption is the reform of the structure of our anti-corruption system,” stated Ren.

Ren added that for the government to be effective it needs both the participation of the public and the resolve of political leaders to investigate officials.  He added that while he hopes the government will continue to encourage the public to expose corruption, he would also like to see its official website play a more substantial role in that effort.

You May Like

Photogallery Brussels Schools, Metro Reopen Under Heavy Guard

City remains under the highest threat alert level due to what authorities have described as a 'serious and imminent' threat of attack

Video Debt-ridden Refugees Await Onslaught of Lebanese Winter

Aid agencies are attempting to reduce potentially devastating consequences of freezing conditions and snowstorms that killed eight last year, including three Syrian refugees

UN Warns Air Pollution in Asia Pacific Has Rising Cost

Globally some seven million people a year die prematurely due to indoor and outdoor pollution with about 70 per cent of those deaths in region

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs