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).
William Ide
— 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

Mali's Female Basketball Players Rebound After Islamist Occupation

Islamist extremists ruled northern Mali for most of 2012, imposing strict Sharia law, and now some 18 months later, the region is slowly getting back on its feet More

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

Many Chinese-made products go unsold, for now, with numerous Vietnamese consumers still angry over recent dispute More

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid