Exposure via internet now China's top weapon in war on graft
Think tank finds online reports spur far more corruption investigations than traditional media
The internet has become the primary tool for exposing corruption on the mainland, "removing a corrupt official with the click of a mouse", according to a leading think tank's analysis.
In its Blue Book of New Media, researchers from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) said that 156 corruption cases between 2010 and last year were first brought to light online - compared with 78 cases to resulting from reports in traditional media.
Forty-four cases involving disciplinary violations were first exposed in some form online, while 29 cases followed print and broadcast stories. Sixteen cases citing abuses of power were exposed online; 10 were revealed in traditional media.
Among the latest officials to fall from grace thanks to online revelations was Liu Tienan , a former deputy chief of the National Development and Reform Commission.
Liu was sacked in mid-May, more than five months after an editor of the influential Caijing magazine used his microblog account to expose allegations against him.
The report said revelations online, and the rise in interest in public affairs the internet had engendered, were the main reasons more people were participating in anti-corruption efforts.
However, the report cautioned that such efforts still had a long way to go. Only five officials of above departmental rank were brought down via online exposures last year - just a fraction of the 950 officials of that level who were probed for crimes.
The mainland had 564 million internet users at the end of last year, including 309 million microbloggers, according to the China Internet Network Information Centre. The Blue Book said the online community would likely exceed 600 million this year.
The new-media boom has posed an unprecedented challenge to Communist Party rulers, experts warned, due to the easy spread of information, including rumours. The report blamed the online rumour mill on governments' declining credibility and growing concern on the part of the public.
Beijing has introduced several regulations to combat rumours. In March 2011, Sina and Tencent disabled comments for three days following chatter about a possible coup led by now-disgraced former Chongqing party boss Bo Xilai .
Professor Tang Xujun , the deputy director of CASS' Institute of Journalism and Communication, said: "You can hardly avoid rumours on the internet. If the government fails to respond quickly to people's demands conveyed via the internet, it will give further rise to the spreading of rumours."