Ji Yingnan almost had it all. Money, luxury clothes, a nice car, a rich and powerful boyfriend. But when she found out he had a wife and teenage son, she felt betrayed. In revenge she took to the internet with stories of her boyfriend’s corruption and extravagance.Like other mistresses of powerful officials in China, Ji Yingnan is finding the internet to be a powerful resource. Publicly shaming corrupt officials who live lavishly on supposedly ordinary salaries has become an almost frequent occurrence in China. Zhu Ruifeng, a “citizen journalist,” shot to fame when he posted a video of a “memorably unattractive” official having sex with a teenage mistress. The official lost his job and ultimately ended up in jail. Zhu Ruifeng promises there will be more videos, more shamings.Mistresses, like corruption, are not a new thing in China. But the scorn the public now directs at corrupt officials and their shenanigans has grown to extraordinary levels. Amplified by the internet and social media, these stories make international headlines.The Communist Party’s response over the past few years has been a rather weak campaign to stamp out corruption and extravagance within the party, along with a much stronger attempt to silence whistleblowers and clamp down on online forums where embarrassing stories emerge. Zhu Ruifeng, like others of his ilk, receive visits from state security agents. The crackdown has intensified under Xi Jinping’s leadership. As the New York Times reported earlier this month:
Worried about its hold on public opinion, the Chinese government has pursued a propaganda and police offensive against what it calls malicious rumor-mongering online. Police forces across the country have announced the detentions of hundreds of microblog users since last month on charges of concocting and spreading false claims, often politically damaging. For weeks, a torrent of commentaries in the state-run news media have warned popular opinion makers on China’s biggest microblog site, Sina’s Weibo service, to watch their words.
The crackdown can only go so far. The Communist Party would be better off if it dealt seriously with its officials’ corrupt, extravagant, potentially incriminating lifestyles. But so far, attempts at that have been superficial and half-hearted at best.