2012 was the annus horribilis of the “trial by Weibo” of government officials, their public humiliation and ultimate sacking in disgrace. More than ever before, last year witnessed multiple cases where government officials were implicated in sex videos and other corruption scandals that first appeared in full public view on the Chinese Internet and led ultimately to their dismissal. If it wasn’t already before, the public image of government officials of various ranks in China was in crisis in 2012.
In light of this situation, the Crisis Management Research Center at Renmin University (中国人民大学危机管理研究中心) in Beijing earlier in January this year published a report entitled “The Public Image Crisis of Government Officials” (官员形象危机2012报告). As the Yanzhao Evening News (燕赵晚报) from Hebei province today explains in a front page story, the Crisis Management Research Center surveyed 24 cases of corruption that became public knowledge on the Chinese Internet in 2012 so as to divine some trends and patterns in corrupt behavior among government officials in China. Their findings included that 95% of corrupt government officials keep mistresses, and more than 60% of these corrupt officials are openly cohabiting with their mistresses. Yet this is merely the beginning. Read on for what misdeeds the men behind the faces below got up to in 2012, before paying the price brought on by full public knowledge. Ah, the Internet…
Some of China’s most corrupt (and most publicly known) former government officials in 2012
Among other findings, the Crisis Management Research Center report highlighted the following personal characteristics of the officials involved as well as aspects of the investigations that were carried out:
- Age: Twelve of the 24 officials were older than 50 (although the age of the officials in question could not be exactly verified in eight cases). Interestingly, the oldest corrupt official among the 24 was Bo Xilai, who was aged 63 at the time of being investigated for corruption. The youngest person among the 24 was a 25-year-old village official from Sichuan province.
- Rank: The majority of the 24 cases involved officials holding the rank of Party secretary at the county level. As a former member of the Politburo, Bo Xilai was the highest ranking, followed by Li Chuncheng, the former deputy secretary of the Sichuan provincial Party committee.
- Timing of exposure: Of the 24 officials, there were only six for whom it was not possible to verify exactly when their misdeeds became widespread knowledge on the Internet. The first man to be “outed” in 2012 was Yang Cunhu (杨存虎), former Party secretary for Jingle county (静乐县) in Shanxi province, whose womanizing and apparent “caught in the act” (床照风波) misdeeds became known on Weibo in January. Yet the floodgates only opened in October 2012 when He Guoqiang (贺国强), Politburo member and secretary for Party disciplinary inspection, announced that 660,000 Party officials had been investigated for corruption in the preceding five years, and 24,000 officials had been transferred to judicial authorities as criminal suspects. On the eve of the 18th Party Congress, He’s statement was interpreted as a sign of a new offensive from the highest levels against corruption in the Party, and the dominoes of corrupt officials immediately began to fall one after the other, totaling 13 cases in the three months up to December alone.
- Main grounds for investigation: Eight of the 24 corrupt officials were sent down for crimes that involved women, e.g. rape or intercourse with minors. These included Lei Zhengfu, Li Xingong, and Yang Cunhu. The rest of the cases involved economic crimes. There’s also some peculiar cases, e.g. that of Yang Dacai (杨达才), a.k.a. “Watch Brother”, who faced “trial by Weibo” and ultimate dismissal for being seen wearing various expensive watches.
- Length of time from exposure to dismissal: Of the 18 cases where the time of first exposure and investigation could be exactly determined, the shortest length of time was 12 hours, and the longest 40 days.
Links and sources
Yanzhao Wanbao (燕赵晚报): 报告指被查处的贪官95%有情妇