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China’s little red envelopes

As China gears up for celebrations of the Chinese Communist Party’s 90th anniversary, officials are scrambling to stifle public discourse over endemic corruption within the party. On June 11, Beijing public relations consultant Chen Hong created a website where tipsters could report bribes anonymously, based on a popular Indian anti-graft site established in August 2010. ...

TEH ENG KOON/AFP/Getty Images
TEH ENG KOON/AFP/Getty Images

As China gears up for celebrations of the Chinese Communist Party’s 90th anniversary, officials are scrambling to stifle public discourse over endemic corruption within the party. On June 11, Beijing public relations consultant Chen Hong created a website where tipsters could report bribes anonymously, based on a popular Indian anti-graft site established in August 2010. Over the last two weeks, ibribery.com drew 200,000 unique visitors and spawned a raft of imitators, but government pressure has forced Chen and the webmasters of the other report-a-bribe sites to shut down their sites. News reports capture bribe stories galore from the deceased sites, such as this:

On another new Chinese confess-a-bribe website (www.522phone.com), one businessman said he had paid 3 million yuan (283,648 pounds) to officials to win contracts, including taking a planning official on a 10-day tour of Europe.

Other postings on the sites included stories of kickbacks for permission to sell medicine, underhand sell-offs of state-owned mines to cronies, payments of money and cigarettes to pass driving school, and "red envelopes" of cash to doctors to ensure expectant mothers were well treated.

And this:

[The website’s] anonymous posts wrote about bribing everybody: officials who demanded luxury cars and villas to police officers who needed inducements not to issue traffic tickets. Some outed doctors receiving cash under the table to ensure safe surgical procedures.

In addition to Chen’s efforts, officials have had to contend with public reaction to reports that emerged last week accusing government officials of taking 800 billion yuan worth of state assets overseas since the mid-1990s (the official response: The reports’ numbers are incorrect). Meanwhile, state media outlets have acted aggressively to assuage public dissatisfaction. A flurry of articles published today publicize anti-graft efforts within the party, fulfilling the time-honored principle of state media agencies worldwide: writing more articles makes you more right.

Edmund Downie is a Yale University Gordon Grand Fellow currently interning at the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi. He works on the regional political economy of Asia. Follow him at @ned_downie. Twitter: @ned_downie

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