At the end of 2008, two officials were ousted from their posts after disguising a holiday abroad as a “study tour” and passing the bills on to the Chinese people. According to the People’s Daily, Liu Zhongpin, Party Secretary and Chief of the Office for Foreign and Overseas Chinese Affairs of Xinyu City in Jiangxi Province, Liu Qun, a deputy of Liu Zhongping’s office, and Xu Dongchun, chief of the administration for Xiannu Lake in Xinyu City were fired from their positions and Liu Qun and Xu also received a “serious warning” from within the Party. The officials were part of an eleven member delegation which traveled to the United States and Canada in April 2008. They were accused of prolonging the trip and using government money to go to tourist attractions and pay for airfare. In total, over 335,880RMB was paid out by the Xinyu counterpart of the official delegation.
This controversy was posted to the web by a netizen who claimed to have found a bag containing the documents and receipts from the trip accidentally left by a travel agent on a Shanghai subway. The author uploaded images of the travel documents to the web. The delegation was supposed to “observe human resources management in Canada and the US”; however, the documents listed examples of public funds paying for excursions to Las Vegas, Niagara Falls, and other resorts.
A similar story made headlines and fell under severe scrutiny when a seventeen-minute video was released on the web, highlighting aspects of Guangdong’s local officials’ fourteen-day trip to Africa and the Middle East in March 2007, paid for by public funds. This resulted with a deputy Party secretary, Tan Rigui of Duanzhou district of Zhaoqing city, being removed from his position. Furthermore, all members of the tour group were to accept responsibility and repay the 450,000RMB cost. The video features the delegation visiting famous landmarks as part of a tour group, taking pictures in natural parks, and viewing street performances
A netizen remarks on these "fortuitous finds":
This video records in detail the 14-day trip of the inspection group. Its degree of luxury is astounding. Once again, the video was a “fortuitous find.” Not only does it start recording from the first expenditure, but it also gives the trip a realistic quality: we can clearly see the inspection team members’ true faces.
But I was left perplexed. Why is it that our netizens are always the ones making these “fortuitous finds” while our political bureaus can’t intentionally uncover them? Is it because of their “intentional indulgence”? It’s really a mystery; I think they’re the only ones who know.
From this 17-minute video, we can distinctly make out the actual itinerary of the observation team: first, the places they’re inspecting are the countries’ famous landmarks and scenic spots. Perhaps they’re going to inspect their tour industry development, then? They went to an ostrich park, then the Cape Town Peninsula, and then a seal preservation zone. Out of the entire trip, there was only one instance that was relevant to the government observation team. Second, the degree of luxury on this trip is flabbergasting. They went on sumptuous tours, visited a gold mine, and a diamond factory. Furthermore, everyone purchased South African Diamonds. Third, I am struck by the trip’s vulgarity. For example, they’re going to see a belly dancing performance, and so on.
Further comments about the Middle East delegation:
“Actually, a lot of cadres are the same. This is only the tip of the iceberg!”
“The people’s sweat and blood money has been used to help the economy of large deserts.”
“Externally, he’s had his job removed, but wait a few days — is he just going to get transferred to another position?”
The main argument in this case is that public funds should not pay for entertaining excursions, but the small cost of going to a scenic park is certain not to make a tremendous dent into China’s economy. It’s important to note the political significance of this accusation. Netizens are not arguing a need to save China’s economy from such lavish trips, but are angry about the political implications of corruption.
The video of this "study tour" can be found here.
Lin Jiaxiang, 58, was an official from Shenzhen working for the Marine Affairs Bureau. Lin was fired after he was caught on tape assaulting a young girl at a restaurant while intoxicated. While there was insufficient evidence to suggest he molested the child, he was fired from his government post.
On October 8, 2008 Lin Jiaxiang was caught on video grabbing an 11-year-old girl by the throat and trying to force her into the men’s room with him. However the video that spread across web forums and online communities appears to be rather vague in detail. The surveillance camera does not catch most of the controversy, instead showing only the little girl leading Lin Jiaxiang across a dining room presumably to the restroom. A moment later the girl runs back across the dining room to her family, who then walk out and confront Lin Jiaxiang. An argument soon ensues between the girl’s father and Lin while the wait staff presumably tries to mediate. While the video clearly shows that something occurred to warrant an argument between the two parties, the bulk of what occurred on the way to the bathroom is not shown.
Investigators said it appeared as though he was holding her lightly on the nape of the neck, and that because she got away so easily that he couldn’t have been holding on too tightly. Yet, despite this finding Lin was removed from his position. This act agrees with the suggestion that the government removes anyone remotely accused of corrupt and indecent acts from positions of power, especially when their story is spread quickly over the search engine.
View the original video here.
Deng Yujiao: A Hero of the People
Deng Yujiao was a 21-year old waitress of a karaoke bar in Hubei Province who fatally stabbed a Communist Party official in early summer 2009. Deng was transformed into a national celebrity, praised for her triumph over a “corrupt official” when she stabbed Huang Weida, a local official of Badong Country, after the man and his two friends assaulted her. She was arrested for voluntary manslaughter.
However, Hubei officials were put under pressure when an online blogger Wu Gan publicized her case on the internet resulting in an outpouring of rage from netizens demanding a fair trial. In a government censor crackdown, Wu’s blog was shut down and reporters were unable to even enter the town of the incident. But Deng was released on bail and given an attorney to represent her. The story ended in victory for Deng who was found not guilty by the Hubei court, who said she acted in self defense. It is uncertain what Deng Yujiao’s fate would be had the public not turned her story into an act of courage through the internet and the Human Flesh Search Engine.
Zhou Jiugeng's Lavish Lifestyle
State official Zhou Jiugeng's life would change as a result of photographs of himself being dissected on the internet by netizens. In the photograph, Zhou was seen wearing an expensive watch (costing over 100,000RMB) and smoking expensive cigarettes (150RMB a pack).
Later, it was discovered that he also drove a Cadillac to work every day. Netizens questioned how someone in his position could afford such luxury items. According to Xin Hua News Agency, Zhou Jiugeng’s name was mentioned in over 4,600 blogs after the photo began to circulate. After thousands of comments about the man’s lavish lifestyle, the Jiangning district government launched an investigation to look over his assets and he was fired from his post.
Netizens played a dangerous game making assumptions about Zhou being a corrupt official. Merely looking over photographs does not seem to be substantial evidence to justify corruption, however it was enough to spearhead further discussion which prompted government involvement.
This article from ChinaSmack contains Tianya forum comments on this instance.
Other Official Outfit Controversies
In 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.
In August 2012 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. Yang was removed from his post by the Chinese Communist Party on September 21, 2012.
"My Dad is Li Gang"
On the night of October 16, 2010 a car sped through the Hebei University campus and hit two university students, one of which later died as a result of his injuries. After hitting the students, the driver, 22 year-old Li Qiming, continued on to the female dormitory to drop off his girlfriend. It was there that he was confronted by security. When arrested he shouted out "Go ahead, sue me if you dare. My dad is Li Gang!" assuming his father's position would get him off the hook. It was later determined that Li Qiming was under the influence of alcohol while driving.
Bloggers and netizens were outraged after the story hit the news and the phrase "My dad is Li Gang!" (我爸是李刚) has become somewhat of a catchphrase on the Chinese internet signifying an overbearing arrogance. Netizens spoke out against the arrogance of children of government officials and powerful Chinese.
Later a video was released of Li Qiming's apology but was rejected by the victims' families as well as netizens. Two weeks after the incident the state issued a directive for all media to stop reporting on the story, and internet discussions were soon blocked. However, due to the hype that arose from the story, in January 2011, Li Qiming was arrested and sentenced to jail for six years as well as pay a hefty fine to the families of the victims.