Monday, August 27, 2012

Official Outfits

One of the main stories of "netizens vs. corruption" that my own research drew upon was the story of Zhou Jiugeng, a Chinese state official who was thrown into the internet spotlight after netizens dissected photographs oh himself wearing an expensive watch and equally expensive foreign cigarettes. It was later discovered that he also drove a Cadillac to work. Netizens questioned how a man in his position could afford such luxuries and determined that he must be involved in corruption since his salary did not match his amenities. As a result, he was fired from his post.

I discovered today two similar causes of netizens dissecting the outfits of officials and both questioning their spending abilities and morals.

The first story is from March 2012 during the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. Delegate Li Xiaolin came under fire from netizens for wearing an expensive Emilio Pucci pantsuit. While debates among netizens ranged from anger over lavish spending against a backdrop of Chinese rural poor, to the delegate's freedom to spend her money as she chooses and wear what she wants. Concurrent with attacks on Li, other images began to pop up showcasing various delegates sporting suits and attire from famous western designers such as Hermes, Dior, and Chanel.

More recently, a story followed a tragic event in Shaanxi province where an overnight bus rammed into the back of a gas tanker and caught fire, killing 36 people. Shortly after the accident, a photo circulated on Weibo depicting a middle-aged overweight man smiling near the wreckage. Netizens did a human flesh search for the man's identity and determined him to be Yang Dacai, chief of Shaanxi’s Safety Supervision Bureau. The photograph quickly sparked ire among netizens condemning his actions.

Regardless of his reasons for smiling, be it nerves or another situation that will remain unknown to netizens, those on China's internet soon began to analyze various photos of Yang wearing expensive watches costing anywhere from $30,000-60,000, more than an official in his post should be able to afford, proving that officials need to keep in mind that their expenses are not without scrutiny on the Chinese internet.

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