Officials must accept Web's piercing gaze

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Global Times, June 23, 2011
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A number of recent scandals involving the private lives of government officials have been exposed on the Internet and become popular topics for both gossip and criticism.

A video screencap was released of an official in Guangzhou talking while naked with an unidentified person. A health bureau chief in Liyang, Jiangsu Province, was seen flirting with his apparent mistress on Weibo, China's equivalent of Twitter, and talking about spending time together in a hotel.

A court president in Xiangyang, Hubei Province was caught secretly entering a hotel room shortly after a female official, before they left separately an hour later.

The health bureau chief was sacked right away, the government of Liyang announced Wednesday. The other official has received a warning, and the third is still being investigated.

When debate rages about how the public can monitor abuses of power, the Internet has already begun hauling tons of garbage and displaying them in the public eye. Consider how many officials were first spotted for a minor offence such as speaking badly to a reporter, before being exposed and uncovered by angry "human search engines" and finally being fired for corruption.

Before the Internet became popular in China, these were unimaginable.

This kind of public monitoring will become even more ubiquitous and more ruthless. Not only grass-roots officials will be involved but higher-ranking officials will be targeted.

This change may come as a shock to many. However, it is a positive change that will deal a substantial blow to chronic problems among officials.

Some officials may feel it unfair, thinking that their "privacy" has been invaded. They should quickly change their mind.

All developed societies are strict with their government officials, because their power is directly related to public interest, and their morality may affect the way they wield power. The privacy of Chinese officials will only shrink further in the long run.

We cannot deny that most officials are working hard. However, the absence of effective public monitoring has left many uncaring about forbidden behavior.

The advance of this online anti-corruption storm has apparently outrun the officials' awareness of how to behave in modern society. The traditional ways of enjoy their power have put them at high risk of being taken down.

This may be a little cruel to the officials, as the public opinion will not show mercy to anybody. But as soon as they try to abuse power or take what is not theirs, they will risk public naming and shaming.

When one tries to play smart, he often ends up becoming a fool, just like the health bureau chief, who believed a microblog was a safe way to contact his mistress.

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