News / Asia

China Trying to Manage Exposure of Corruption Online

Various Chinese microblog websites are seen on a screen in this photo illustration taken in Beijing, Sep. 13, 2011.
Various Chinese microblog websites are seen on a screen in this photo illustration taken in Beijing, Sep. 13, 2011.
Reuters
China's Internet is brimming with disclosures of officials collecting bribes, homes and luxury accessories as casually as they do mistresses.
 
But while the government tolerates such anti-corruption vigilantism, it is also extremely leery of the threat the Internet can pose to Communist Party rule.
 
The Internet is the new tool in the fight against corruption - a cornerstone policy of new President Xi Jinping, who has pledged to tackle the problem head-on.
 
But while acknowledging that China's online world is helpful, authorities have also moved quickly to quash rumors that might fan protests that could escalate out of control, deleting microblog posts or even entire accounts.
 
The accounts of two people who spread potentially panic-inducing rumors of bird flu breaking out in Guizhou province were erased, according to the China Daily newspaper.
 
He Bing, vice president of the law school at China University of Political Science and Law, told media that his Twitter-like microblog, or “weibo”, was closed down after he forwarded what turned out to be a rumor of a student killing an Internet enforcement officer who had suspended his account.
 
Author Murong Xuecun, an outspoken censorship critic, said his four weibo accounts, with 8.5 million combined followers, were deleted after he posted criticism of restrictions on what university teachers can discuss with students.
 
China unveiled tighter Internet controls in December, legalizing the deletion of posts and accounts, underscoring the government's desire to muzzle online debate.
 
Those convicted of spreading rumors and false reports can be jailed for up to 10 years.
 
China has more than a half-billion Internet users, and the  great popularity of weibo has spawned a legion of corruption watchdogs whose posts can circulate among millions.
 
“Citizens have readily transitioned from being extremely reluctant to voice their views to being extremely competitive about trying to get their views out there and to gain followers,” said Ken Lieberthal of the Brookings Institution in Washington.

 Punished for posting
 
But protests could threaten stability and the disciplinary apparatus has moved quickly to squelch hearsay.
 
Police this month detained a 28-year-old Beijing woman for posting that another woman, 22, was gang-raped and thrown off a building to her death and that police refused to investigate.
 
Police said the victim committed suicide, but were alarmed when hundreds protested against her death, demanding an inquiry.
 
Also this month, four people in Xinjiang province in China's northwest were given five days' detention for spreading rumors about a murder that police say never happened.
 
The latest bureaucrat to fall from grace thanks to the Internet was Liu Tienan, sacked last week as deputy chief of the National Development and Reform Commission.
 
Liu was accused by a journalist in microblog posts of helping to defraud banks of $200 million and of threatening to kill his mistress who reportedly balked at the scheme.
 
Media fanfare about Liu's downfall “suggested the ruling party welcomes netizens to join the anti-corruption campaign”, Zhou Shuzhen, a professor at Renmin University in Beijing told the state news agency Xinhua.
 
The Internet has snared numerous victims.
 
An official in Shanxi province was dubbed “watch brother” after cybersleuths posted photos of him wearing luxury timepieces. A deputy bank manager became known online as “house sister” for buying 20 properties in northwest China worth some $160 million and more than 40 in Beijing.
 
One of the most notorious cases burst into public view last November, with video posted online of Lei Zhengfu, a squat and now-former apparatchik in Chongqing, having sex with an 18-year-old mistress.
 
Yet another official, ex-chief of the Central Compilation and Translation Bureau, Yi Junqing, was sacked in January when his mistress posted details of their affair.
 
“These days the government can't ignore this kind of social pressure because it faces increasing questions of its own legitimacy,” says Li Datong, a former journalist who lost his job for challenging censorship.
 
But while Xi has pledged to hunt down corrupt “flies” as well as “tigers”, referring to low- and high-ranking officials, the public is still waiting for a big catch.
 
“We have some pretty large-size flies, but no small tigers,” said Minxin Pei of Claremont McKenna College in the United States. “The next test case will be to see whether the government will allow a minister's wrong deeds to be exposed, and then to go after him.”
 
The saga of Bo Xilai, a Politburo member drummed out of the party and arrested for corruption and whose wife was convicted last year of the murder of a British businessman, occurred before Xi became president and party chief.
 
China's ultimate rulers, the seven members of the Communist Party Politburo's Standing Committee, are “off limits” for corruption probes, Pei said.
 
The government responded with fury when the New York Times reported in October that relatives and associates of then-premier and Standing Committee member Wen Jiabao had secretly accumulated at least $2.7 billion in assets.
 
The Times' website has remained blocked in China since then.

You May Like

Hezbollah Chief Says Does Not Want War But Ready for One

VOA's Jerusalem correspondent reports that with an Israeli election looming and Hezbollah's involvement in Syria, neither side appears interested in a wider conflict More

Multimedia VOA SPECIAL REPORT: Despite Danger, Best US Minds Battle Deadly Virus

Scientists at America's premier biological research center race in military confinement to find effective drugs, speedier tests and a safe vaccine amid the deadliest outbreak of Ebola in history More

Kurdish Poet Battles to Defend Language, Culture

Kawa Nemir's work is an example of what he sees as an irreversible cultural and political assertiveness among Kurds in Turkey More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unresti
X
Heather Murdock
January 30, 2015 8:00 PM
Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Mobile Infrared Scanners May Help Homeowners Save Energy

Mobile photo scanners have been successfully employed for navigational purposes, such as Google Maps. Now, a group of scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology says the same technology could help homeowners better insulate their houses and save some money. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid