Mon, Jan 07, 2013 - Page 9 News List

Whistleblowers and journalists exposing corruption in China

Analysts say the Chinese Communist Party’s much trumpeted clean-up is only skin-deep, even though a provincial official with 47 mistresses has been sacked

By Jonathan Kaiman  /  The Observer, BEIJING

Chinese media have accused the 20- something daughter of a former housing official in Zhengzhou, capital of central Henan Province, of owning 11 apartments. Her 27-year-old brother may own as many as 14. Her family is under investigation.

Last week Chinese message boards filled with pictures supposedly showing a female executive at the state-owned China Petrochemical Corp cavorting with male prostitutes in an upmarket Beijing club. Media reports suggested that a US company may have plied her with the gigolos — and then blackmailed her with videotapes of their encounter — to secure a lucrative building contract in the central city of Wuhan. The woman responded immediately, saying that she will “definitely pursue legal actions against those vicious slanders.” There is no doubt that they could ruin her career.

In November last year, Chongqing official Lei Zhengfu (雷政富) was sacked 72 hours after an investigative reporter leaked a five-year-old video of him sleeping with his young mistress to the Internet.

Hu Yong (胡泳), a professor at Peking University’s School of Journalism and Communication, said that while China’s limitations on freedom of speech are systemic — the party simply does not tolerate perceived attacks on its legitimacy — the growing power of bloggers to expose corrupt officials comes from loopholes in the country’s arcane censorship system.

“In China it’s really hard to use these individual cases to make any predictions about the future,” he said. “Because, in the end, the decision-making process is completely opaque.”

While giving broad latitude to some Internet users in the anti-corruption frenzy, Chinese censors have quashed reports that target the party’s highest leaders. They blocked the New York Times and Bloomberg Web sites for publishing exposes on the wealth accumulated by the families of Xi and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶).

Last week propaganda officials in Guangzhou Province heavily revised a front-page editorial in the left-inclined newspaper Southern Weekend without the consent of its staff. The published editorial was half the length of the original, brazenly pro-Communist and laden with factual and typographical errors. Fifty-one Southern Weekend employees signed an open letter calling the disruption “ignorant and excessive.”

Officials closed one of China’s most outspoken and reform-minded magazines on Friday after it published an article calling for constitutional governance and political reform. The Beijing-based Yanhuang Chunqius Web site now shows a picture of a cartoon policeman holding out a badge.

“The Web site that you are visiting has been closed because it has not been registered,” it says, without giving further detail.

A week earlier, an open letter advocating political reform was posted on the Internet and signed by 73 prominent intellectuals, including professors at some of the country’s most respected universities.

If the Chinese government does not reform, the letter warned, “then official corruption and dissatisfaction in society will boil up to a crisis point and China will once again miss the opportunity for peaceful reform, and slip into the turbulence and chaos of violent revolution.”

Online references to the letter have since been deleted.

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