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

UN Ambassador Power Highlights Plight of Women Prisoners

She launches the 'Free the 20' campaign, aimed at profiling women being deprived of their freedom around the world More

Satellite Launch Sparks Spectacular Light Show

A slight delay in a satellite launch lit up the Florida sky early this morning More

Fleeing IS Killings in Syria, Family Reaches Bavaria

Exhausted, scared and under-nourished, Khalil and Maha's tale mirrors those of thousands of refugees from war-torn countries who have left their homes in the hopes of finding a better life More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs