Netizen Voices: Anti-Corruption Education for the Spouses of 140 High-Ranking Cadres in Hunan Province

According to reports on Hunan TV, Global Times, and related WeChat public accounts, the spouses of 140 high-ranking cadres in Hunan province recently attended an “anti-corruption” educational activity sponsored by the provincial Commission for Discipline Inspection. The participants—whose spouses head up various provincial government agencies, state-owned enterprises, universities, and other work units—were first treated to a visit to the on-site Hunan Anti-Corruption Warning and Education Center, featuring museum-style displays about anti-corruption investigations and prosecutions targeting disgraced cadres Yi Pengfei, Wang Qun, Cao Jiongfang, Liu Hesheng, Yang Weiguo, Gong Wusheng, and Li Jianguo. Some of the fallen were found to have engaged in “apron-strings corruption” and “nepotistic corruption,” roping in their wives, children, and other relatives. 

RFA Mandarin reported on the anti-corruption education for spouses, and included a number of quotes from experts about the intent, tactics, and efficacy of such educational efforts. Hu Ping, editor-in-chief of the New York-based monthly journal Beijing Spring, noted that it is a relatively novel approach—targeting cadres who might be tempted to use their family members to accept bribes, or who might become corrupt due to avaricious family members. Hu believes that the intention behind the educational effort is twofold: to intimidate the spouses of cadres, and to encourage them to report corruption if it occurs. Independent commentator Ji Feng opined that the best way to tackle official corruption is to force cadres to disclose their assets, and characterized the spousal education efforts as superficial. “It’s all a big show. It’s a show first of all for the leadership to see, and second, for the common people to see.”

There continue to be scandals involving so-called “apron-strings corruption” (in which male officials are allegedly tempted into illegality by avaricious wives) and “nepotistic corruption” (in which the corruption involves one’s children or other relatives). In 2023, social media user “Arctic Catfish” (北极鲶鱼, Běijí Niányú), a young Chinese woman studying in Australia, stoked online fury for posting photos and comments that flaunted her family’s wealth and extravagant lifestyle, mocked the Chinese people, and lobbed insults at those less wealthy than herself. Online sleuths eventually identified the woman as the granddaughter of Zhong Gengci, a long-retired former Shenzhen transport bureau official, which raised questions about how the family of a minor civil servant managed to accumulate what Artic Catfish described as “a nine-figure fortune.” After an official investigation, Zhong was punished with a slap on the wrist: expulsion from the CCP, a reduction in pension, and the confiscation of any (unspecified) illicit gains.

CDT editors have collected and translated a number of WeChat and Weibo comments about spousal anti-corruption education in Hunan:

@既明清: The lesson is: better keep your mouth shut, just in case.

@椰椰大汪: They all look so well maintained. I wonder how much that costs?

@等待来信中: Respecting discipline and obeying the law are the most basic duties of a decent human being. Is it really necessary to send wives for “ideological reeducation” to learn how to manage their husbands?

@六个小鹌鹑: I think it’s fine to let spouses know about the proper channels for reporting corruption. That way, in the event of a family conflict, they can take the righteous path and drop the hammer on their spouse.

@小鱼的月亮呀: I’d guess that at least a quarter of these couples are “sleeping in the same bed but dreaming different dreams.” They ought to invite the mistresses to attend the meeting, too.

@MOBJ_up: Rather than focus on education, why not just require cadres to disclose their assets and property holdings? It’d be more effective, and would cut straight to the chase.

@横槊G赋诗: They’re all postdoctoral fellows in the Department of Performance.

@落-mu: First ask where their kids are living. [suspicious dog emoji]

@温暖的吕: Why are they only willing to focus on education, but not to accept “supervision by the people?” What are they afraid of? [Chinese]


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