BEIJING, April 18 -- "In the Name of the People," a 55-episode TV series debuted on Hunan Television, China's second most watched channel, last month, focusing on power struggles between government officials and their ingenious schemes for embezzling money and lining their own pockets.
To many Chinese, the series encapsulates their own personal experiences at the hands of corrupt officials.
REALITY NO LESS DRAMATIC
"Stories in the TV series are so real," said Yang Guosheng from Nanjing, capital of east China's Jiangsu province.
"The scene of forced demolition was reminiscent of what I have personally witnessed," he said.
In the TV series, a demolition team wearing police uniforms forced their way into a factory and attempted to pull down the building, until workers lit a fire to block their way.
"We have met with demolition teams disguised as police officers several times," Yang said. "They used all kinds of measures to try to drive us away and take over the land."
In 2006 and 2009, Nanjing witnessed two demolition campaigns, when Feng Yajun was head of the Qinhuai district. Feng was placed under "coercive measures" and investigated in 2014.
The anti-corruption campaign shifted up a gear after the 18th CPC National Congress in 2012. Most cases in the TV series are based on reality.
Writer of the series Zhou Meisen, 61, was himself is a victim of corruption. In the main plotline of the drama, workers lose their equity rights in their factory go on a mass protest.
"I was among the victims of the same kind of scam, when our employees' equity shares simply evaporated during a takeover," he said, adding the lawsuit over the dispute has yet been settled.
Zhou published a novel with the same name as the series in January. The support of the Supreme People's Procuratorate allowed him to interview corrupt officials in jail.
"Reality is no less dramatic than what appeared on the screen," said an official in Taiyuan, capital of Shanxi province who declined to be named.
In the drama a city police chief makes an ostentatious display of weeping profusely at the funeral of a high-ranking official's father, and does garden work in an attempt to curry favor with a much revered retired procurator.
"I have seen worse things," said the official in Shanxi. "I once saw a man rush to tie the shoelaces of his superior."
Shanxi Province is home to some of the worst corruption in China, where a mass fall from grace has had huge administrative repercussions. In 2013 alone, a total of 15,450 officials and cadres were punished for graft.
Local people can name several buildings which were products of corruption, although the claims have not been officially verified. Some of them are now budget hotels, while some others stand empty.
The anti-corruption campaign has brought results that many people can recognize. Yang Guosheng in Nanjing believes that forced demolition is less common now. "They (officials) are more self-disciplined," he said.
Last year courts across the country saw 45,000 graft cases involving 63,000 people, according to the work report of the Supreme People's Court.
In Taiyuan, capital of Shanxi, high-end hospitality centers, formally exclusive venues for local officials, are now open to the public.
TV audiences have an undying passion for anti-corruption. "In the Name of the People" is the most watched this year, both on TV and online at iQIYI. The first episode has clocked up over 1.4 billion views. "In the Name of the People" was one of the hottest topics online. Last year, documentary series "Always on the Road," telling the stories of convicted officials such as Zhou Yongkang, was a massive hit.
"In the Name of the People" starred Hu Jing as Gao Xiaoqin, an official's mistress. She told Xinhua that she had worried about if the series would be broadcast, because some details of the story were "too sensitive." In the drama, her character, together with her sister, had affairs with several officials and used their power to make themselves a fortune.
"From the TV series we see China's determination against corruption," said an office worker in Shanxi. "We have been talking about anti-corruption for so long that some may have become slack, but the drama refueled people's enthusiasm."
"Behind the high audience rating is Chinese people's wish for cleaner government and a fairer society," said a professor from Shanxi provincial academy of social sciences. "With so many people watching, we see that the anti-corruption campaign is unremitting."
Lu Runsen is former vice chairman of the political consultative body of Yuci, Shanxi. Yuci is home to businesswomen Hu Xin and Hu Lei, on whom the characters Gao Xiaoqin and her sister are generally believed to have been based.
"Hopefully the 19th National Congress will deliver a healthy mechanism of official promotion," said the retired official.
"We attached great importance to economic development, during which process the line between right and wrong became blurred. It is time now to raise the quality of our civil servants," he said.