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Battling Corruption with Chinese Characteristics

Yang Dacai, 55, head of the Shaanxi Provincial Bureau of Work Safety, was grinning in a photo taken after he arrived at the scene of a deadly traffic accident on Sunday in Yan’an, Shaanxi. Thirty-six people were killed when a bus rammed into a truck carrying a tank of methanol and caught fire. The photo triggered an online wave of criticism, which grew in strength when photos of Yang wearing five different watches, including Rolex, Mont Blanc and Radar, were posted online.

Although Yang defended his innocence claiming he had "used legal income" to buy them, the Party Discipline Inspection Commission of Shaanxi started an investigation. On Thursday, however, new photographs of Yang wearing four other watches appeared online. Experts identified those watches as two Rolexes, a Diagono by Bulgari, and a Constellation by Omega.

In recent years, a number of corrupt officials were uncovered via the Internet. Netizens accidentally ran across another official in Nanjing city who was found to be smoking 1,500-yuan cigarettes. This led to a series of other charges and, in 2009, he was sentenced to 11 years in prison.

Beijing Institute of Technology professor Hu Xingdou said it involves “Chinese characteristics” to use Internet exposure to sack corrupt officials. It is also unfortunate that other conventional weapons against corruption, such as a public declaration of an official’s personal property, checks and balances of power, and monitoring by a free media, are not in place.

Source: Voice of America, September 6, 2012