One researcher has stated that most of the corrupted officials who were caught red-handed last year, kept mistresses. Yet this fact presents only one aspect of the Chinese officials' image crisis, Procuratorial Daily reported yesterday.
"In 2012, the image crisis haunting China's officials formed a hazard and had an increasingly negative impact," said Tang Jun, director of the Crisis Management Research Center at Renmin University. "In this era of new media, the depth and extent of information communication have changed, posing a huge challenge to maintaining both the officials' and government's image."
Tang and his team are set to release a research report entitled "Official Image Crisis 2012," which focuses completely on those civil servants who have been "caught in the act."
"In 2012, more than ten sex scandals involving government officials were exposed online," Tang said, "According to our statistics, among all the corrupted officials caught in 2012, 95 percent had mistresses and more than 60 percent kept concubines; all of these [statistics] are worsening the general official image."
Interestingly, he added, a sex scandal is the easiest way to make an official step down. In China, an official's sex scandal always leads to the exposure of other possibly corrupt and illegal doings on his part. "This kind of scandal doesn't only occur in China," Tang said, "But in many other countries, it doesn't [directly] relate to the official's political ethics and will seldom lead to other, bigger problems."
Tang Jun explained that the normal nature of any scandal's progress sees it evolve from being exposed online, which turns it into a popular juicy news item, to being followed by a public outcry for justice. This public anger then in turn forces the disciplinary department to investigate and this inspection will then often find more illegal evidence to take down the relevant official. In 2012, as the Chinese public was becoming increasingly dissatisfied, the time to take down another official was approaching faster than usual. For example, Chongqing official Lei Zhengfu was taken down only 63 hours after his sex video was leaked online.
In the report, Tang summarized that the village official, the grassroots official, the senior official, the law enforcement official and the quasi-official personnel, are the five high-risk groups. The five image crises are: Sex scandals; the flaunting of huge wealth (e.g. by wearing expensive watches or purchasing numerous houses); the wrong-doings of relatives (even if the official himself does nothing wrong); the increase of "accidentally and unexpected" involvements (like a smear campaign or just because of sharing the same name with another official); and the rise of the so-called "fake official" (e.g. faking to be police in order to rob a bank, or playing the senior official in order to gain online fame).
Tang Jun continued that nowadays the public has lost much of its trust in officials and government, due to more and more incidents. The corrupted officials have left a bad taste in the public's mouth as well as created the impression of social injustice. For this reason precisely, many hold hatred toward them, as well as carry the presumption that all officials are guilty of engaging in illegal acts – even without any hard evidence.
Tang said he hopes his team's research report can signal a small warning to the officials of various departments, and help them take a long, hard look at themselves and their own actions. He added that under the new circumstances, the government needs to actively guide the public in learning how to resolve tension and conflict and to improve the government image as well.