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

    Russia Sees Brexit Impact Widespread but Temporary

    Officials, citizens react to Britain’s vote to exit European Union with mix of pleasure, understanding and concern

    Obama Encourages Entrepreneurs to Seek Global Interconnection

    President tells entrepreneurs at global summit at Stanford University to find mentors, push ahead with new ideas on day after Britain voters decide to exit EU

    Video Some US Gun Owners Support Gun Control

    Defying the stereotype, Dave Makings says he'd give up his assault rifle for a comprehensive program to reduce gun violence

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Unchartered Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Unchartered Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora