Public Trust and Online Transparency

History professor Liu Qing suggests that netizens’ scrutiny will force the opening of China’s secretive “black box” society. From Caixin Online:

The Chinese people are now blessed with the ability to participate in governance through the internet. Using the internet to scrutinize the world around us, ever vigilant for abuses, is an excellent example of the people putting their creativity to practical use. Some even say that being an official nowadays is a kind of “high-risk” job.

Of course, there will always be some who try to make the internet a source of discord, just as there will be some “high scholars” who look down on the scrutiny of the internet as nothing but a craven, large-scale peep show. These so-called scholars cling to their half-baked haughtiness as they sit in judgment of China’s online citizens; at best, they understand the significance of some internet-led stories but just fail to discriminate between what is and is not significant and worth focusing on. As a result, they end up wrongly labeling many important internet-led stories as mere gossip-mongering.

Through the lens of the internet, many scattered stories form into a repetitive narrative. The pure expression of feelings online, sometimes cool and tempered and sometimes fiery and indignant, has often led to constructive effects where responsible parties are called to account for their actions. Today’s internet scrutiny is poised to become a homegrown, truly Chinese form of mass participation in public affairs. And China’s online on-lookers are raising the death knell for that “black box” society where the guilty can hide in fortresses of money and power.

Another recent Caixin article, by lawyer Ding Jinkun, argued otherwise, however:

The moneyed class is in fact so ingratiated with local government that the wealthy have become the de factor political rulers. What has emerged is a despotism where citizens are sacrificed on the altar of the powerful, where legal rulings are constantly harming the people they are meant to help. Citizens looking to protect their rights will simply never win versus officials or versus the rich. Their only choice is to perish together, pitiable and powerless.

See also responses from China Hearsay and ChinaGeeks to the recent arrest, brought about by an online outcry, of a Guizhou official for the rape of a schoolteacher. From ChinaGeeks:

This case is just yet another piece of evidence that China’s justice system serves not the people but the government and the Party. And even if justice is served from time to time, it’s the right result for the wrong reason.


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