Being a corrupt Chinese official used to be a cakewalk.
People clamored to get in your good graces and showered you with gifts to curry favor.
You drove a nice German car — in black to show power and instill fear, of course — wore extravagant watches and were able to squirrel away piles of cash to secure your family’s future in the United States.
There was an opulent banquet in your honor almost every night.
And you abandoned yourself to all kinds of debauchery at the after-parties that followed.
You were the king of your own fiefdom.
And life was good.
Then President Xi Jinping’s crackdown on corruption kicked in.
It’s just a temporary thing, you thought, just like all the other short-lived anti-corruption drives of leaders past.
He’ll ensnare a few tigers and swat a bunch of flies, as the powerful leaders and lowly bureaucrats are called, then leave us all alone, you reasoned.
Well, here we are almost three years later, and they just took down The Man — the once untouchable Zhou Yongkang, former Politburo Standing Committee member and the ex-minister of public security.
Some of your colleagues are running scared and so depressed they’re slitting their own wrists, jumping out of windows and dreaming up all sorts of unnatural ways to avoid the unpleasantness of arrest and interrogation.
You can’t trust anyone.
Almost everyone is under investigation.
Your adversaries are having you followed.
You’d swear that every one of your mistresses’ apartments was bugged.
Now, to make your life even more miserable, there’s a new smartphone app that totally takes the fun out of being a corrupt Chinese official.
China’s top anti-corruption watchdog last week released the app, which allows the public to upload compromising photos or other evidence of officials’ misusing public funds or vehicles or breaking the frugality rules of China’s Communist Party, China News Service reported.
The new app allows whistle-blowers to upload photos or videos (a maximum of two files of 5 megabytes each) plus a lengthy description of up to 500 characters.
That means any Zhou Blow on the street can snitch on your appalling misdeeds, heinous transgressions and abominable perversions.
The app — helpfully called the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) Website App — leads the user to the commission’s anticorruption website, The Wall Street Journal reported.
The website calls for officials to oppose the Four Winds — meaning formalism, bureaucracy, hedonism and waste.
Once installed and in action, the app lists different categories of corruption.
They include use of public funds for banquets, domestic tourism, travelling abroad, holding luxurious weddings and funerals and other misdeeds.
State news agency Xinhua said the CCDI reported 1,033 tips on the app’s launch day.
“At one point, we were getting three tip-offs a minute,” a CCDI official who wished to remain anonymous was quoted as saying.
For the record, the first tip was about an expensive new local government office building flouting the central leadership’s frugality policy.
“The informant sent clear details, and the case was clear-cut,” the CCDI official said.
“So we handed over the lead to investigators in about 10 minutes.”
Petty graft among low-level officials is closely felt by the public and damages the party’s reputation, a CCDI press release said.
“We want to send a strong signal and press local party organs to stay alert,” it said.
The involvement of ordinary Chinese people is key to the success of Xi’s attempts to clean up the party, Gao Bo, the deputy secretary general of Beijing’s anticorruption research center, told the Guardian.
“Their opinion and ideas — no matter what — can be beneficial to authorities,” Gao said.
The new app function and web platform have prompted online commentary, some skeptical and some mocking, The New York Times reported.
“You think reporting means the cases will be investigated? Stop kidding me,” a Weibo user named Liu Ming wrote in the comments on an online report by state broadcaster CCTV.
“No matter how you report officials, the outcome will always depend on how powerful the people behind them are.”
Another user worried whether the identities of informers would be protected.
“They can easily find out which messages are sent from which IP address,” she posted.
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