China’s avid Internet users are taking a leaf from India’s anti-corruption drama by opening Web sites so citizens can confess, sometimes in pitiless detail, to buying off officials.
Chinese people can be disdainful of poorer India, but some have sought inspiration from the anti-corruption anger that has swept the South Asian nation, fanned by the Internet.
Several Chinese confess-a-bribe Web sites, including “I Made a Bribe” (www.ibribery.com), have been inspired by an Indian Web site “I paid a bribe” (http://ipaidabribe.com), Hong Kong’s Wen Wei Po newspaper reported yesterday.
“Stop seeking improper gains and promote equal competition and return to us the dream of a fair China,” the Chinese-language front-page of the “I Made a Bribe” Web site says. “Please reveal your experiences of paying bribes so embezzlement and corruption have nowhere to hide.”
India ranked worse than China in Transparency International’s survey last year of perceived corruption, with China 78th out 178 nations and regions counted, and India 87th.
However, the tales posted on China’s new anti-bribery Web sites suggested that residents their have plenty to complain about.
The Chinese Communist Party regularly vows to stamp out corruption, but a long line-up of convicted officials also testifies that bribery and illicit enrichment remain common.
On another new Chinese confess-a-kickback Web site (www.522phone.com), one businessman said he had paid 3 million yuan (US$463,000) to officials to win contracts, including taking a planning official on a 10-day tour of Europe.
“Don’t think I’m trying to show off my wealth with this posting,” the businessman wrote. “It’s just I’m so toothless and helpless in the face of current-day society.”
“We hate corrupt officials, but we’re desperate to be recruited as officials. We hate monopolies, but wrack our brains to get into high-paying employers. We mock bent ways, but then try to pull personal connections to get our own business done,” he added.
Other postings on the sites included stories of kickbacks for permission to sell medicine, underhand sell-offs of state-owned mines to cronies, payments of money and cigarettes to pass driving school and “red envelopes” of cash to doctors to ensure expectant mothers were well treated.
PLAY OR BE PLAYED
“There’s no choice but to pay bribes,” one message said on the “I Made a Bribe” Web site, which said it was from a teacher who paid off education officials for jobs and promotions.
“Each time you naively assume you can get something done using regular procedures ... the result is you find nothing gets done unless you spend money to settle things with them,” the teacher said.
None of these anonymous claims could be verified.
The Chinese Web sites do not specify who is running them and whether they have official approval. In the past, some local governments have tried to use the Internet to encourage citizens and officials to confess to corruption.
China has more Internet users than any other country in the world — more than 450 million of them — and, even with censorship, they have already made the Internet a lively forum for airing complaints about corruption.
CROSSING RED LINE?
However, the new anti-corruption Web sites may be too blunt for Beijing to tolerate. Beijing has shut down other, investigative Web sites used to air corruption claims.
One message on “I Made a Bribe” voiced fears it would be shut by China’s censors.
“China’s national conditions are nothing like India’s,” it said. “If the government lets this Web site continue, this country will have a little hope. If it’s shut, then there’s no hope at all.”
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