Recently, a poor county on the Yangtze used video to run reconnaissance on the work habits of its officials. In three days of clandestine shooting, a crew of disciplinary agents in Zigui County (Hubei) caught more than 200 colleagues screwing off on the job. Leaders screened the film internally at a county-wide meeting, eliciting the consternation of underlings. When the news first broke in Wuhan-based Changjiang Times (ÈïøÊ±üÂïÜÊä•), the controversy centered on was whether county leaders had gone too far. But since then, other papers (Southern Daily, for example) have advanced the notion that they and their experiment – which has been tried before in recent years – do not go nearly far enough.
On Monday, The Beijing News (Êñ∞‰∫¨Êä•) ran an long and rather amusing dispatch from the county, entitled, “Secretly Shooting Cadres’ Violating Discipline: No Oversight of Top Leaders Stirs Debate.” A TBN reporter went down to Zigui and interviewed the architects and moles behind the plot for the paper’s Inside Reports ÔºàÊ†∏ÂøÉÊä•ÈÅìÔºâ page, which has shown a few signs of life lately after lying dormant for the past year and a half. A quick translation of the story follows:
On March 12, Zigui (Áß≠ÂΩí) held a “county-wide meeting on cadre work-style building.” At the meeting, a video was aired showing some cadres committing administrative violations of discipline. Afterward, Wu Ming (a pseudonym) began to court resentment from people there.
“I have a friend who went out for breakfast during work hours, and he was filmed too,” said Wu Ming. “The cameraman who filmed him was me.”
Wu Ming is a cadre in the supervision bureau of the Communist Party Committee for Discipline Inspection of Zigui County. On February 25, he joined a special joint inspection team. Their mission was to shoot footage of cadres in the county, to check whether they were late to get to work or early to get off, trading stocks at the office, playing games, nodding off during meetings, playing with their cell phones and or guilty of other work-style problems.
The data released on March 12 caused the secretary of the county’s Communist Party committee, Luo Pinglang, to feel worried.
In three days of shooting, a total of 217 violators were caught on screen, 31 of them assistant division heads. Another 158 people violators were found out but not filmed.
“From this we can see that the work style of cadres has reached a point where we have to fix it,” Luo Pinglang said.
After the video was aired, there was an obvious change in the work style of cadres in the county. However, one local civil servant said that it’s hard to tell how long changes that come about from a crash attack can last.
An official of the secondary unit of the Zigui County communications bureau said that those exposed were generally ordinary functionaries. Several “top leaders” (‰∏ÄÊääÊâã) who were filmed had not been exposed.
As to the effects of this exposure, Luo Pinglang believes that “the practice treated the symptoms but not the root cause” of the problems, but improving the work style of cadres cannot be accomplished overnight; a long-lasting mechanism must be established.
Luo Pinglang and his colleagues are still in the process of studying specific plans, he said. “This absolutely is not just a bunch of talk. We’re dead serious.”
The Secret Activities of the County’s Discipline and Inspection Committee
Over three days of shooting, the organization of the county discipline and inspection committee was required to “put aside all personal feelings and show the true face of cadres’ work styles.”
On February 25 at 4 p.m., Wu Ming got a phone call from the deputy secretary of the county’s discipline inspection committee, who notified him to come to a meeting of the committee at 7:20 a.m. the next day.
“The atmosphere at the meeting that day was odd,” said Wu Ming. Before the meeting, all the participants had to hand over their cell phones.
“Usually we’re the ones who collect other people’s cell phones, when on the case.” Wu Ming saw that in attendance were two members of the county’s Communist Party standing committee. He reasoned that some important activity was afoot.
The secretary of the discipline inspection committee, Sun Xiaorong, and the director of the county party committee office, Zheng Zhibiao, arrived at the scene. Also there were members of the county’s party organization department and television station – 18 personnel in all.
The personnel were divided up into six groups, each of which were allocated one camera and one car. They would be responsible for shooting violations of discipline by cadres throughout the county. The filming was to last three days.
Sun Xiaorong explained that their mobile phones had been confiscated temporarily in order to maintain confidentiality, and prevent people from being tipped off by the film crews or catching wind of it through acquaintances.
Zigui is officially recognized as one of the country’s poverty-stricken counties. In 2003, because of the Three Gorges Dam project, the county seat was moved eastward to Maoping Town. The party committee secretary of the county, Luo Pinglang, offered some background on the rectification activity. “After the completion of the Three Gorges resettlement work, the focus in Zigui shifted to economic development. But some cadres could not adapt properly. There is an urgent need to strengthen their work-style building.”
What took Wu Ming by surprise was that in the many years he had worked in Zigui, this was the first time such emphasis was being placed on the work style of officials.
But he soon realized that “in such a small town, most people in the various organs and departments are familiar with another. To shoulder a camera and shoot individuals violating discipline, this is something that offends people.”
County leaders promised that the list of 18 names of the people in the inspection team would be kept strictly confidential.
Disobedient Cadres Involve 25 Departments
When a county-wide economic work conference was convened, the number who arrived late, departed early, or were absent entirely reached 116 people alone, involving 32 departments. Dozing off and playing with mobile phones were widely spotted phenomena.
On February 26, in the lobby on the first floor of the county government building, a video camera was placed atop the reception table three meters away from the doors.
At 8:00 a.m., it began to film latecomers.
Wu Ming and two colleagues maintained a certain distance from the camera, watching the scene unfold before their eyes.
One tardy cadre did not understand the hidden motives behind the camera. He waved a hand, rushed the lens and smiled and said hello.
Wu Ming could not help himself from laughing. But afraid of “beating the grass and scaring off the snake,” he immediately restrained himself.
Some latecomers took note of the camera, and phoned others to alert them. The inspection team then took the camera up to the second floor to shoot from a concealed spot overhead.
In the ensuing footage, the tardiest arrival got to work nearly 50 minutes late.
In three days, the camera recorded 80 latecomers from 25 departments.
The inspection crew also appeared on the scene of breakfast stand next to the county’s Experimental Primary School. In three days of shooting there, the team discovered more than 60 people eating breakfast outside during work hours. Quite a few made it on camera three days straight.
At 8:30 a.m. on February 27, Zigui convened a county-wide economic work conference.
After the meeting began, people started to doze off. One policeman dressed in full uniform fell asleep. Some people were playing with their cell phones and making phone calls. People were also chatting and joking with one another. Video cameras recorded it all.
Filmmakers bear the weight on their minds
One person in the discipline inspection committee says that all the people who participated in the filming carry the weight on their minds. One cadre in the party organization department who was not willing to participate in the filming was admonished by the department.
Two days after the shooting, Wu Ming was worried that he had offended too many people, and asked to withdraw from the inspection team. His request was denied by the leaders.
On February 28, the last day of shooting, Wu Ming suffered an embarrassing scene.
“Be sure to catch them in the act. Otherwise, those who conduct their private business online in the office will not admit to playing games at work. If you criticize them, they won’t submit.” Those were the special orders of the discipline inspection committee leaders, said Wu Ming.
On the 29th, at the secondary unit of a certain bureau, Wu Ming caught a cadre playing chess online.
“What do you think you are filming? You didn’t even ask. Up until now I have been working.” The person angrily questioned Wu Ming.
Even though it was highly difficult to shoot in the open, in three days of filming, there were more than 30 instances of cadres captured in the act.
In the scenes filmed, people are chatting on the Internet and playing online games. Then when they catch sight of the film makers, they panic and shut down their computers. One cadre playing the online chess is so absorbed in the game that he never notices an inspector with a camera standing directly behind him. There were also people online trading stocks and playing dou dizhu [a card game].
“In order to truthfully render the scenes, some shots were filmed in the open and others undercover. But we did not use pinhole cameras as rumors alleged,” said the county Discipline Inspection Commission secretary, Sun Xiaorong. In the entire county of Zigui, he said, there is not one pinhole camera.
“In fact, the people who took part in the filming bear the weight on their minds,” said a source in the county discipline inspection committee. The source noted that one cadre in the county organization department who was not willing to participate was admonished by the department.
A cadre with the county land bureau said he knew a Zigui County TV reporter who did not want to shoot people sleeping during meetings, because he was afraid of offending them. He was criticized by name by the county party secretary.
Exposed violations not linked to appointments and dismissals
Secretary of the county Party committee Luo Pinglang stresses, “This is special film is not to be used as an assessment or as the basis for appointments and dismissals. It’s only to be used as internal educational material, to serve as a warning.”
Right after the filming, the secretary of the county Discipline Inspection Commission, Sun Xiaorong, and the director of county party committee office, Zheng Zhibiao, got a lot of phone calls pleading for leniency.
In the three days of recordings, cadres from the county public security bureau popped up on camera relatively often. The political commissar of the public security bureau had come to make an appeal for leniency.
The political commissar explained, “Comrades dozed off during the meetings because they had worked overtime the night before.”
Sun Xiaorong later screened the cases of police who had breached discipline. Even after he discarded a few who had gone out on public duty, there were still a number of police who were exposed on film.
The discipline inspection committee took the footage of all forms of violations and edited it down to a 21-minute feature. On March 12, more than 1,000 cadres were assembled to watch it together.
That day, Liu Xingyuan sat in the twelfth row. He was not in a good mood. Liu Xingyuan is the chief of the county pricing bureau. Although he only had ten people under him, four of them were exposed on camera violating discipline. One of them was a deputy chief.
Although all the cadres sitting around him were well acquainted with one another, none of them spoke. They stared at the screen, and after finishing watching video, bowed their heads. They nervously recorded the speech given by county party secretary Luo Pinglang afterward.
Luo Pinglang stressed, “This film is not to be used for assessment, or as the basis for appointments and dismissals. It’s only to be used to be used as internal educational materials, to serve as a warning.”
The face of cadres’ work styles changes
After the phenomenon of violations was exposed, cadres get to work and leave more punctually. There are no more late arrivals or early exits at meetings.
Just before noon on March 21, at 11:58, there is not a soul in sight by the elevator doors on the sixth floor of the Zigui County government complex. Five minutes later, the elevator is packed. Many cadres working on the upper floors have to take the stairs.
As the publicity division chief of the Zigui County Party Committee Publicity Department Lin Peng remembers, prior to exposure, some people would get off work early. Traffic on the elevators was dispersed, and the elevators were not so crowded. But since the exposure, everyone has headed downstairs together a few minutes past 12:00 p.m., resulting in a crowded elevator.
He said that now cadres get on and off work on time. And when meetings are held, there are no more late arrivals or early exits.
Out on the streets, vendors at the stalls also feel that there’s been a clear change in the work style of local cadres.
At a ma-and-pa noodle shop beside the Zigui County Experimental Primary School, Old Liu said that ever since a few of people carrying cameras came to the kiosks to film those few times, fewer cadres go for breakfast during work hours. His business has also cooled off a lot.
“In some bureaus, it’s still not too easy for the top leader to criticize his assistants. We’ve helped him to shed light on these people, which helps promote his work,” said discipline inspection committee secretary Sun Xiaorong. He believes that the exposure has also aided some bureau chiefs with internal management.
Since the exposure, the county communications bureau has organized secret internal investigations on several occasions. It also has introduced some new punitive measures. Anyone discovered chatting online in the office will be assessed a fine of 100 yuan; the relevant supervisor will be fined 200 yuan. Furthermore, the person involved will be disqualified from an advanced appraisal in end-of-year assessments, as will the person in charge of the department.
The Zigui County tax bureau’s discipline inspection team head, Mu Xiaoping, said that the tax bureaucracy had also formulated a system of internal rules to boost the work style of cadres.
Building a long-term mechanism to promote work style building
County Discipline Inspection Committee Sun Xiaorong says that if a top leader is exposed as well, his personal credibility will be affected, and then it will be hard for that bureau to carry forward its work.”
Although media in Zigui County have stressed that all video material will only be shown internally among leading cadres, an employee at the Three Gorges legal services station of Zigui County, Xiang Li’an, believes that airing the videos in this way violates the rights to privacy of the parties involved.
A supervisor with a secondary unit of the Zigui County Department of Communications views the exposure on a different level. “Since the authorities want to rectify the work style of cadres, no exceptions should be made. Everyone should be exposed. The higher the level of the person exposed, the greater the deterrent effect. But this time, none of the leaders were exposed.”
He also stressed that by merely seeking to educate and not to punish, over time, the deterrent effect will be lost. He said that while he supports the approach, “I hope that the intensity will be stronger. We cannot go one forever educating without punishing. Those who should be dealt with, must be dealt with. ”
“Indeed, there were top leaders of individual bureaus who were filmed. However, the goal of exposing people is to promote our work. If a top leader is exposed as well, his personal credibility will be affected, and then it will be hard for that bureau to carry forward its work,” discipline inspection committee secretary Sun Xiaorong explained.
As secretary of the discipline inspection committee, Sun Xiaorong understands in fact that the violations of discipline that have been filmed are not sufficient to take disciplinary action.
“I noticed that there is some criticism that we have violated the personal privacy of cadres. I do not think so,” county party secretary Luo Pinglang said. All of the filming was done during work hours and at the workplace. Leading cadres get their salary from the state. During work hours and while at work, outside of their bodily privacy, they have no privacy to speak of.”
“Recently, we also have reorganized the members of the teams at several bureaus, and dismissed a few people.” Luo Pinglang said the dismissals were not directly related to the exposure, but were related to the problem of work-style building on a deeper level. For instance, the team lacked unity.
Luo Pinglang’s upcoming designs for rectifying the work style of cadres also include the following plans: to recruit five to seven cadres retired from county leadership posts and form special inspection teams, to patrol and inspect the implementation of major programs to build cadres’ work styles. To ensure that the special teams are not obstructed, they would be funded separately and responsible directly to the county party committee. Any department supervisor whom the masses complain a lot about, or who has not shown clear improvement in work style, must be criticized and admonished, and the interested parties must receive administrative sanctions.
Luo Pinglang said that long-term mechanisms to boost cadres’ work styles are still being studied, and in the end, a system should be relied upon to uphold their work styles.