To some people the internet is just a way to exchange email, buy books and check the weather.
But for bureaucrats in China, the web is a dangerous place to get caught, with some rather serious career-ending possibilities.
Back in WiC7, readers will recall we cited the case of Zhou Jiugeng – dubbed the ‘super expensive cigarette director’.
Zhou faced trial for ‘causing negative social effects’ after netizens spread photos of him smoking pricey Nanjing 95 Imperial cigarettes and wearing a $14,600 Vacheron Constantin watch.
Such sophisticated tastes seemed a little beyond the means of the official’s monthly salary of $544.
Last Saturday, Zhou was sentenced to 11 years in jail for accepting bribes. As the China Daily points out, Zhou’s case reinforces how the internet has become an important medium to fight corruption.
And not just corruption, it would seem. Officials must now also worry about getting caught just behaving badly.
A recent case causing an online storm involves Yu Fuqin, a Party secretary of a hospital in Xinjiang, and her husband, a regimental vice-colonel.
The couple were holidaying in Gansu, visiting the Mogao Grottoes, when Mrs Yu touched an ancient mural. A 19 year-old guide asked her not to touch the Buddhist painting – which features on the United Nation’s World Heritage List.
What followed was unorthodox: Yu twice slapped the guide in the face. After the guide burst into tears a security guard came over. Yu’s husband told him they were an “important couple” and asked that the matter be dropped.
All of this was soon on internet sites – such as Tianya.cn – featuring photos of Yu touching the murals, and video of the slapping. Her high-handed manner has riled netizens, touching off familiar grievances towards arrogant senior bureaucrats and the sense that they are above the rules.
In this particular case it does not seem so. The Yu’s are attached to a semi-military governmental organisation – the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps. And an official from the Corps soon announced they had both been dismissed from their posts. A netizen with the moniker ‘Jiazongdingliangzhu’ stated the punishment was “fair and timely”.
Hopefully, the example will serve to prevent wayward conduct among other officials. As the Chinese saying goes: ‘Kill the chicken to scare the monkeys’. At the very least, Yu will think twice before she slaps anyone again.
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