China upgrades anti-graft app so whistleblowers can send images of officials caught red-handed
China’s anti-corruption agency has updated the anti-graft app it launched at the beginning of the year so that whistleblowers can now report cases on the spot by uploading photos or videos.
Until now, the app could not facilitate multimedia content. It protects users’ identities by respecting their anonymity.
The public is being encouraged to use visual evidence to document cases of officials enjoying luxurious meals, using government vehicles for their personal use, or otherwise flaunting their wealth, the Central Committee for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) said this week.
The move is part of an attack on what the agency calls the “Four Winds” of decadence, namely, formalism, bureaucracy, hedonism and extravagance.
While some of the terms may be hard to conceive in a negative light from a foreign perspective, they make more sense in a country where business can be painfully slow when officials stubbornly stick to overly formal procedures.
The four practices have been blacklisted among Chinese officials since president Xi Jinping launched a sweeping anti-graft campaign two years ago.
READ MORE: China's top anti-graft agency slams slack local graft-busters for allowing corrupt cadres to rise
The Chinese government has sought to distance itself from charges of corruption after being left po-faced by a number of high profile corruption cases recently.
Examples include the life sentence handed down to security czar Zhou Yongkang this month, and the almost Shakespearean drama involving fallen from grace politician Bo Xilai, his wife and a murdered British businessman in 2012.
The update to the app came two days ahead of the mainland’s traditional Dragon Boat Festival, which falls on Saturday.
Officials are more likely to break the rules during national or public holidays, said the agency, which operates under the China Central Committee of the Communist Party, one of China’s top political bodies.
Activities that are no longer considered acceptable in an era when more cases of corruption are coming to light in China include luxurious trips purchased using public funds and the acquisition of extra office space.
Officials can also be penalised if they are found to have held grand weddings or funerals, bought entertainment-related or gym memberships with public funds, or given or received cash as gifts, the agency said.
The free app is available on Apple’s App Store and on various Android stores, as well as on the CCDI’s official website.
Once installed, it lists various categories of corruption ranging from banquets to overseas travel. Users can upload up to two 5-megabyte files giving details such as the time and place of the incident observed.
Yet some bloggers have expressed sceptism as to whether reported cases would be punished, or even lead to real social change. Others feared the calls may be monitored, seeing the anonymity claim as a sham.
Meanwhile, a number of disciplinary inspection bodies in China have started using the hugely popular WeChat messaging app and Weibo microblog in a bid to be more transparent, notably in the provinces of Shandong and Zhejiang.
Beijing's inspection watchdog recently opened a WeChat account. One of its first moves was to publish the contact details of six of its inspection teams.