by Warner Todd Huston | May 2, 2013 2:31 pm
Citizen journalists in China have succeeded in getting a wasteful government official fired by reporting on a lavish party he threw paid for by government funds.
The Communist Party boss of Taizhou City, Zhang Aihua, had developed a habit of extravagant parties, high spending, and glad-handing industrial representatives, so much so that local residents had become angry at the excess.
At length, Jia Hongwei, a web forum administrator in Taizhou, joined other local citizens in outrage at Aihua’s latest blowout party. Hongwei brought his video camera and took images of the expensive foods and wines that cluttered the tables of Aihua’s party scene and posted them online.
The crowd of every-day Chinese harangued the official until he mounted a table to beg for forgiveness over a loudspeaker. “I was wrong tonight. Please forgive me. I’ll do anything if you let me go,” he is reported as having pleaded to the crowd.
But it was blogger Hongwei that seems to have been instrumental in urging the government to investigate the Communist Party boss.
As The Guardian reports,
Jia stopped recording when he left at about 8pm. Yet three hours later, he was sent a photo of Zhang kneeling on the table, face contorted in distress, a loudhailer in his right hand. He posted both the photo and video online that night, and they quickly gained traction on Sina Weibo, China’s most popular microblogging service. Taizhou officials began investigating Zhang over the weekend.
Zhang Aihua was soon relieved of his position of power in Taizhou City.
Party Officials in Beijing have initiated a campaign to eliminate corruption and wasteful spending by often out of control party officials, a reform campaign to which Zhang Aihua fell victim.
China expert, however, warn foreigners that this incident isn’t necessarily proof that Chinese officials have loosened their stranglehold on Internet activities. Steve Tsang, an expert on Chinese politics at the University of Nottingham, pointed out that in this incident the blogger’s activities dovetailed with the government’s aims.
“I think if and when they [bloggers] are seen as crossing a line, and are focused on challenging the party, or party rule, that would be a different matter,” Tsang said. “I think the clampdown would be quite tight.”
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