Anti-corruption websites can help govt campaign

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Global Times, June 22, 2011
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Since its launch in September last year, an Indian anti-corruption website,, has proved successful by reporting to the public which government departments have received the most bribes.

This website has inspired many in China to follow suit. Several similar websites have been established by Internet users here but are now facing closure due to legal issues.

Zhang Jinghong, deputy director of Beijing’s anti-corruption bureau, cautioned Monday that inaccurate information published on these websites might lead to defamation or even tip off corrupt officials before investigations begin. Another official from the city’s procuratorate warned that the websites were illegal under the current legal framework and urged the public to have faith in the government.

But why should a non-government anti-corruption website in India appeal to the Chinese public?

The current judicial system does have channels for people to report corruption, such as the People’s Procuratorates from local to State levels. The Office of Letters and Calls, which provides petitioners with a chance to report injustice to higher-level authorities, have also been in place for a long time.

Still, many people would prefer to seek justice through public exposure on grass-roots websites. This reflects some problems with the effectiveness and credibility of official channels. There is no doubt about the sincerity of most official organs to fight corruption. However, the rigid procedures and red tape of many channels have often been dwarfed by the swift action to punish corrupt officials following exposure online.

The government has to improve its official anti-corruption channels and fix loopholes in order to win back credibility.

A glance at the grass-roots anti-corruption websites can spot many problems ranging from poor technology support to the lack of proper management. Most of the websites only contain simple message-boards or online forums where anyone can post whatever they please, without any privacy protection or verification mechanisms.

It seems that many users are just playing with this new concept and are not truly getting to grips with corruption, although a dedicated few have registered their websites and want to get started.

Instead of shutting down these websites because of legal issues, the government should take this opportunity to work with the few websites that genuinely want to help, so that they may complement official bodies to fight corruption.

Those who consciously try to defame others will certainly be held responsible.

But in other cases, China may consider the example of the New York Times Co. v. Sullivan case in the US, which put the pressure on alleged law-breakers to prove their innocence, instead of on whistle-blowers.

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