Corruption in China

Outrage in China over luxury spending claims

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 10 October, 2012, 5:49pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 10 October, 2012, 5:57pm

Chinese social media websites erupted in outrage on Wednesday over claims that a provincial official tried to suppress a newspaper report detailing his expensive tastes in luxury accessories.

Microblog users claimed that tens of thousands of copies of a daily newspaper were destroyed on Monday after they carried a report about the senior official in the government of the southeastern province of Fujian.

Users posted the alleged report from the City Times, which claimed that Li Dejin, director of the Fujian provincial communications department, owned a 50,000 yuan (US$7,900) Rado watch and a 15,000 yuan Hermes belt.

The newspaper is based in the southwestern city of Kunming in Yunnan province.

Users of Weibo, the microblogging service of leading portal, retweeted the post more than 100,000 times.

They also left thousands of comments calling Li “Uncle Watch” and accusing him of corruption and abuse of power by seeking to suppress the story.

“Thanks to the party and the government, for training so many corrupt officials over the years,” wrote one user.

China’s state news agency Xinhua, in a post on one of its official Weibo accounts, called on Li to explain a photograph apparently showing him wearing the Rado watch.

Communist Party and government officials are routinely accused of leading corrupt or luxurious lifestyles while hundreds of millions of Chinese still scrape by or live in poverty despite the economic boom of recent decades.

The issue has become especially sensitive since a rising Communist Party political star, Bo Xilai, was felled by a scandal that saw his wife jailed for murder and Bo accused of a range of crimes and corrupt activities.

Corrupt officials have met with increasing online supervision.

Yang Dacai, a government official in the central province of Shaanxi, was sacked last month after Weibo users posted photographs showing him wearing expensive watches – five of which were together said to be worth more than 300,000 yuan.

Other Weibo users, commenting on the latest allegations, asked how a Fujian government official was allegedly able to order the pulping of newspapers published in a different region of China.