Tea Leaf Nation

Not Safe for (Government) Work

Not Safe for (Government) Work

Qin Guogang once held a respectable post as an official in China’s ruling Communist Party: He was associate dean at a provincial party school, where public officials study. Now, he is famous for a different position: On Jan. 13, a user of Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter, claiming to be Qin’s mistress uploaded images showing a naked Qin removing the underwear from a woman who lay prone. The self-proclaimed former lover wrote that the images were pulled from a sex tape the two filmed together, and she threatened to upload the entire video unless Qin confessed to authorities.

By Jan. 15, the scandal had become the most-queried topic on Baidu, China’s most popular search engine, and made headlines in major domestic media. Qin, perhaps hoping to salvage what was left of his reputation, turned himself in. (Authorities confirmed that he has been suspended from his position is under investigation.)

Qin is far from the first Chinese bureaucrat to fall from grace after an illicit affair. In fact, he is not even the first this month. On Jan. 15, authorities confirmed they had sacked Wang Wen, the official in charge of maintaining party discipline at a state-run scientific institute in southern China, two days after an explicit video showing a naked Wang sharing a hotel room with his alleged mistress appeared online. A local news outlet reported that the peripatetic Wang also had sex with his mistress of one and a half years in his office and in a parked car.

Mistress whistleblowers have broken stories before in China, where mistresses are forbidden for party officials but appear to be dishearteningly common among the cadre ranks. Such exposure can have serious consequences: When naked footage of what the New York Times called the "memorably unattractive" mid-tier official Lei Zhengfu and his much-younger mistress leaked in November 2012, the resulting scandal led to a corruption investigation that not only landed Lei in the brig for 13 years on a bribery charge, but cost another ten cadres their jobs.

Chinese media have likened both Wang and Qin to Lei, which doesn’t bode well for either of them. "Qin Guogang was not able to learn any lessons from the cautionary tale of Lei Zhengfu," lamented an op-ed in the People’s Daily. But on the bright side for the party, the article added, the handling of Qin’s case could serve as an "additional warning" for other wayward officials.