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Web Trap
Cover Stories Series 2013> Web Trap
UPDATED: January 7, 2013 NO. 2 JANUARY 10, 2013
Now, Watchmen Watching Watches
Discipline authorities increasingly responsive to netizen scrutiny of corrupt officials
By Li Li

"The microblogs of Party and government departments are most active in coastal regions such as Zhejiang and Jiangsu, symbolizing more advanced social progress. Meanwhile, this trend is developing fast in China's central and northern areas, showing the increasing recognition from the public," Shan Dangang, a media monitoring expert at the People's Daily website, told China Economic Weekly.

The microblog account of the Yunnan Provincial People's Procuratorate on T.qq.com has 230,791 followers, more than any of its counterparts. Zhao Anjin, Publicity Department chief of the procuratorate, told China Economic Weekly that although there were internal concerns that opening a microblog might invite rumors to spread, the procuratorate's leaders decided to give it a go in an effort to increase judicial transparency and build a tighter bond with the public.

"In the future, microblog whistleblowing will become more common than via telephones and letters, and receive a speedier response," Zhao said.

Legal guarantee

Ma Huaide, Vice President of China University of Political Science and Law in Beijing, said that the prominence of microbloggers also highlights inadequacies of traditional anti-corruption mechanisms.

"For example, there have been loopholes in enforcing the law, and a lack of supervision over law enforcement institutions. Meanwhile, even though we have set up a number of laws to ensure clean governance, the regulations are not complete," Ma told CCTV.

Zhang Zhenliang, a long-time observer of the development of government microblogs in China, said that many officials now avoid wearing wristwatches or luxury suits at public occasions and allegedly forbid their relatives from revealing family wealth in their own microblogs.

"Scrutiny over officials through microblogging should only be supplementary while the key of supervision should be preventing officials from lying about their wealth or not disclosing their assets," said a microblog post regarding Yang Dacai's expulsion.

Officials' property declaration has long been a major public concern in China. A law in this regard was listed in the legislative agenda of the National People's Congress (NPC), China's top legislature, as early as in 1994, but drafters cite "immature conditions" impede its progress.

Han Deyun, an NPC deputy and a lawyer from Chongqing Municipality, has handed over the same legislative proposal seven times since 2006, calling for a law forcing civil servants to declare personal assets.

Last July, the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection replied that the legislation on officials' property declaration remains in the research stage as public responses to pilot programs are being collected and case studies from other countries are being examined. The commission also pledged to accelerate the process to meet actual needs.

Dozens of local governments have also run initiatives making officials' wealth known to the public, but most efforts have ceased and vanished from public attention as officials are unwilling to participate.

During a recent meeting with officials of the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, Ma proposed three further laws to restrain power and make government affairs more transparent.

"The message from the top is that in further combating corruption, the CPC will put more emphasis on building systems to uproot corruption, filling loopholes in existing laws and regulations and establishing a long-term strategy, rather than relying on sporadic action," Ma said.

Email us at: lili@bjreview.com

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