A luxurious 14-day trip to Africa and the Middle East by Guangdong local officials financed by public funds has been met with intense scrutiny after a netizen posted a indicting 17-minute video of the trip's exploits online. As a result of the uproar, a deputy Party secretary was dismissed from his position. From China Daily:
A deputy Party chief of a district in Guangdong province has been sacked from his post in the wake of the online exposure of a 14-day overseas group trip at public expense, a local disciplinary authority said Monday.
Tan Rigui, deputy Party secretary of Duanzhou district of Zhaoqing city in the southern province, led the group consisting of 13 district officials to Africa and the Middle East between February and March 2007, the Zhaoqing disciplinary inspection committee said on its website.
The committee has asked all members of the tour group to accept responsibility and repay the cost, estimated at more than 450,000 yuan ($65,800).
News of the trip was made public last week when a citizen from Luoding in Guangdong posted a 17-minute video on the Internet.
AFP remarks on the role of the Internet in this and other similar incidents:
However, without an independent media or judicial system, corrupt cadres have often been able to act with impunity.
In recent years, though, the Internet has emerged as a powerful tool for ordinary Chinese to expose their corrupt rulers.
[...]And in December, an official in the eastern city of Nanjing was sacked after bloggers posted photos on the Internet showing him wearing a designer watch and smoking expensive cigarettes.
Other Internet postings suggested Zhou Jiugeng, head of a district housing bureau, had other habits well beyond a civil servant's means such as driving to work in a Cadillac.
A newsclip featuring some of the video's scenes. The full 17-minute video can be found here.
Undoubtedly, many netizens are frustrated with rampant local corruption. One blogger, Jade Pen Beacon (碧翰烽), writes on his reaction to the 17-minute video in a post entitled "Fortuitous finds or intentional indulgence? Who can believe that traveling officials are actually going on inspections?" (无意捡到还是有意放纵？谁还相信官员出国是为了考察？). Selectively translated by CDT:
This video records in detail the 14-day trip of the inspection group. Its degree of luxury is astounding. Once again, the video was a "fortuitous find." Not only does it start recording from the first expenditure, but it also gives the trip a realistic quality: we can clearly see the inspection team members' true faces.
But I was left perplexed. Why is it that our netizens are always the ones making these "fortuitous finds" while our political bureaus can't intentionally uncover them? Is it because of their "intentional indulgence"? It's really a mystery; I think they're the only ones who know.
From this 17-minute video, we can distinctly make out the actual itinerary of the observation team: first, the places they're inspecting are the countries' famous landmarks and scenic spots. Perhaps they're going to inspect their tour industry development, then? They went to an ostrich park, then the Cape Town Peninsula, and then a seal preservation zone. Out of the entire trip, there was only one instance that was relevant to the government observation team. Second, the degree of luxury on this trip is flabbergasting. They went on sumptuous tours, visited a gold mine, and a diamond factory. Furthermore, everyone purchased South African Diamonds. Third, I am struck by the trip's vulgarity. For example, their going to see a belly dancing performance, and so on.
In regards to this situation, I don't care if it's real or fake; I fully believe that this sort of thing happens. This reminds me of a time when a few leaders spoke together. Between them, there were a few Party secretaries, some bureau chiefs, etc.
They said that these past few years, you can't give out too much money to cadres -- after all, policies up above are kind of strict -- and there are no leaders who would take on too much responsibility, so they would write about tours. Hey, not giving out money is okay -- just let the cadres take trips! One Party secretary said that nowadays inspection tours are not inspection tours; they're just cover-ups for the real goal of sight seeing. He said that these past two years, every year there could be 2-3 "inspection tours," and not one of them would be real. The year before last year, some village cadres organized trips to Hong Kong and Macao. Last year, they again went on a trip, this time to Hainan Island. What can you "inspect," there, huh? It's just having fun. And then he said last year he went two more times on "inspections." All of them had a bit of the content of inspection, but the time spent on that was only one day. Moreover, it was just listening to introductory talks by some people, and then checking out some companies. The remaining time was spent at a number of scenic spots.
On Sohu, a detailed list of the itinerary is given. Translated by CDT:
14 days, 13 people
Amount spent: 450,000 yuan
2/26: Depart from Hong Kong for Johannesburg, South Africa. Fly Cathay Pacific Airways. Flight time is 12 hours, 50 minutes.
2/27: Visit an ostrich park, Tafelberg.
2/28: After breakfast, go to Cape Town Peninsula, see seal preservation zone. After lunch, go to penguin beach. Go again to Cape of Good Hope.
3/1: From Hopetown to Sun City. Get on a plane.
3/2: Go by jeep to see a wild animal reservation, Sun City.
3/3: Depart for Cairo. Visit a gold mine, diamond factory, purchase diamonds, watch a dance.
3/4: See the pyramids and the Sphinx.
3/5: Cairo -- Alexandria. Pompeii pillars.
3/6: After breakfast, get on a plane for Istanbul. The flight's duration is 2 hours and 10 minutes. After arriving, go to the Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque.
3/7: After breakfast, view the Istanbul Strait. During the trip, there is a performance, during which several members of the group act like fools. After lunch, see local palace. At night, board plane for Dubai.
3/9: Take a luxurious drive to a desert zone. At night, partake in a large Arabic feast, and enjoy a belly dance performance.
3/10: Visit 7 star restaurant.
3/11: (14th day). End of trip. From Dubai, fly back to Hong Kong.
There are currently over 4892 comments on the Sohu posting. Here is a selection translated by CDT:
Prohibit human flesh search engines! Clearly, there are some officials who fear being found by this method. Now, online anti-corruption is the only method. How sad!
Actually, a lot of cadres are the same. This is only the tip of the iceberg!
Intentional and unintentional "finds" [see above] of corrupt happenings are too common.
While he's been exposed, how many countless other officials are still in hiding? They're living in comfort.
We officials go to the desert to play "eluding the cat"~~
We should let them organize an inspection trip to Sichuan's disaster areas
The people's sweat and blood money has been used to help the economy of large deserts.
Externally, he's had his job removed, but wait a few days -- is he just going to get transferred to another position?
Ah, what a lovely situation. Let people around the world know that our country's got money! Keep doing your inspections.
The system won't change, it'll always govern outwardly without caring about the root of the situation!!!
There are lots of these types of people -- you could say that all officials are like this!!!!