Internet no substitute for state anti-graft efforts

15:47, October 27, 2010      

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Dissemination on the Internet is increasingly resorted to as a means of redressing an injustice, by exciting instant, overwhelming public indignation.

But once a grievance is aired online, there is no knowing where it will lead.

Sometimes an incident evolves and takes such dramatic twists that it defies the wildest imagination.

Publicizing a grievance on the Internet may also backfire and boomerang.

One of such incidents is the fatal hit-and-run crash in Hebei University campus on October 16 that killed one female student and injured another.

When the intoxicated driver, Li Qiming, was finally stopped, he shouted: "Go ahead, sue me if you dare. My dad is Li Gang!"

"My dad is Li Gang!" quickly caught on as a buzzword.

Li Gang turned out to be no less a personage than deputy director of a public security bureau in Hebei Province.

The incident infuriated netizens, especially when it became clear that Hebei University chose to be unusually quiet about the death and injury of its students.

The Internet kept up the pressure. One post online alleges that Li Gang has two properties under his name, and his 22-year-old son - the alleged drunken driver - owns three.

There are calls from the media that relevant authorities should investigate these claims.

As the scandal festers, it even implicates an unlikely victim, Wang Hongrui, president of Hebei University.

"Science cop" Fang Zhouzi, who has specialized in exposing academic fraud in recent years, revealed that he had posted a series of articles online in March, suggesting that the president's doctoral dissertation and two of the works coauthored by him were largely plagiarized.

Wang later asked Fang to withdraw the articles, Fang refused, and Wang then turned to police to terrorize whistle blowers within the university.

Thus, by ordering witnesses to the hit-and-run incident to hush up, Wang might be doing something in return for the police chief.

It is yet too early to predict how these complicated forces will interact and play out, but the damning power of the Internet is fairly evident.

Another incident is no less dramatic.

The Hunan Provincial Public Security Department on Monday announced that deputy department chief Yang Jiannong is suspected of taking several millions of yuan in bribes and is being investigated.

Prior to this, on September 12, Yang's wife, Chen Ling, was taken away by police, and later charged with criminal economic misconduct.

But according to Southern Metropolis Weekly and the Caijing magazine website, Chen's real trouble started with her involvement in posting and circulating anonymous online allegations detailing the alleged corruption of some cadres.

The post said that since 2001, most senior party chiefs within the provincial public security department were selling police jobs to the highest bidders, with male candidates busy offering money, and female cops busy offering sex.

The post concluded that "98 percent of the cadres appointed in the recent decade got their jobs through bribes."

Local police refuted the report in the Weekly, saying that the story intends to portray Yang as a corruption fighter by harnessing the massive indignation against corruption.

So far, it seems only Yang is in serious trouble, for he has to explain his 20 million yuan (US$3 million) worth of family assets.

One thing is sure, these allegations, charges, and counter charges will do little to allay public ire against pervasive corruption.

The power of the Internet throws into relief the impotence of anti-graft institutions.

The Internet should continue to play a role, but should no longer continue to eclipse systematic, institutional anti-corruption efforts.

The state must do something in earnest to restore our faith in its ability to clean up the mess.

By Wan Lixin, Shanghai Daily


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