Public call on Chinese officials to declare assets goes viral on Weibo

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 June, 2013, 10:33am
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 August, 2013, 4:13am

A microblog post calling government officials to either declare their assets or retire from their positions has gone viral overnight on Wednesday.

"If officials think their personal assets are private, their only choice is to step down," said the post by Hainan Normal University scholar Liu Li that has been shared some 116,000 times. The post is one of many that have been part of a citizen movement in China calling for disclosures.

"Would Chinese officials dare?" wondered one person who commented on Liu's post.

"This is the only way out for the Chinese Dream," wrote another.  

"We don't need to learn from the West, we just need to look at Macau," one person wrote, referring Liu's mention of an interview with the head of Macau's Personal Data Protection Office. The Chan Hoi Fan interview appeared in the liberal Southern Metropolis Daily in January, when Macau passed a law requiring officials to declare their assets.

Macau's Assets Declaration Law went into force in April after a two-year debate. Under the law, also dubbed the Sunshine Act, officials are required to declare all of their local and overseas assets.

Some lawmakers had opposed the plan arguing that even their spouses did not know about all their properties.

China's southern economic powerhouse province, Guangdong, had sent study groups to Macau to find ways to replicate the law, yet no progress has been made on public declarations of assets on the mainland. 

Reports by foreign media outlets Bloomberg News and The New York Times on the private assets of former premier Wen Jiabao, President Xi Jinping and early military leaders have been censored. 

Meanwhile, the citizen movement calling for officials to declare their assets has become a target for prosecution.

Activists have shared photos of themselves holding banners with slogans demanding rules similar to what have been implemented in Macau. More than a dozen activists have been arrested since late March, Human Rights Watch estimates.

In December, a public letter calling on members of the Communist Party's Central Committee to disclose their assets was signed by more than 7,000 people.

By Wednesday, another post on asset declaration was going viral, becoming the most widely shared post by 11am. It congratulated Liu Zhijun, former railways minister who stood trial on Sunday on corruption charges, for being "the first high-ranking official to publicly declare his assets". 

Liu's fortune of more than 800 million yuan (HK$1 billion) and fleet of 16 cars had been exposed prior to his trial. He is currently awaiting sentencing.