WeChat, new media increasingly used to fight graft

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 26 June, 2013, 4:26pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 June, 2013, 9:16pm


Anti-corruption whistle-blowers are increasingly turning to “new media” to expose official wrongdoings, a new report by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences has found.

More than 156 corruption cases were reported through the web and mobile apps between 2010 and 2012, according to the state think-tank’s latest Annual Report on the Development of New Media in China, published on Tuesday.

The report said the number was double that of newspapers, television and other traditional media - with most cases pertaining to officials’ discipline and regulation violations, power abuses and ethical problems.

Microblogs such as Sina Weibo as well as mobile “micro-messaging” apps such as WeChat (Weixin), are leading to the rise of a cheap and effective way for sources to expose suspected cases of graft without having their identities compromised, the report added.

Notable high-profile corruption scandals uncovered by netizens over the last two years include the Guo Meimei scandal in 2011 and a more recent Chonqing sex-tape scandal which involved at least one district-level party official.

“One of the reasons this is happening is because the government is letting it happen. President Xi Jinping has made it clear that rooting out government corruption is a top priority, and he realises new media are valuable tools to achieving this end,” says Doug Young, a journalism professor at Shanghai's Fudan University and author of The Party Line: How the Media Dictates Public Opinion in Modern China.

“Local governments are probably not very supportive of this trend, because it's mostly corrupt local-level officials who are targets of this new campaign. But they really don't have any choice, since the big social media sites are all privately owned and are not subject to local pressures.” 

Wenzhou’s disciplinary commission set up a new WeChat “hotline” for citizens to report corruption matters in March and has since received 14 complaints which were now being investigated, the Beijing-based Worker’s Daily reported on Monday.

China's online population reached 564 million at the end of 2012, and registered users of WeChat exceeded 300 million.