A visitor to the anti-corruption exhibition in Haikou, capital of Hainan province, on June 3 last year stands next to a billboard featuring eight large Chinese characters, which read: "Strike at corruption with a heavy fist." Zhang Mao
Internet supervision has become an effective way to expose corruption among officials and increase transparency at all levels of government, senior officials have said.
"Democracy is the best way to fight corruption, it's the key," said Jiang Jianchu, deputy procurator general of the Supreme People's Procuratorate in Beijing.
"Such supervision reflects democracy. I hope it could be further promoted," added the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) National Committee member during the ongoing annual legislative and political advisory sessions.
Hao Mingjin, vice-minister of supervision and a CPPCC National Committee member, agreed and said the Internet has enriched his ministry's campaign against corruption.
"We get tips through the Internet and treat them seriously. Some investigations are actually based on information that has come online," he said.
Wan Exiang, vice-president of the Supreme People's Court and another member of the CPPCC National Committee, said his first job every morning was to scour the Web for comments about the courts, good and bad.
"I surf the net a lot and sometimes receive complaints and even attacks," he said. "But I think communication with netizens helps me understand things better, and from a different angle."
Internet supervision has thrived over the last 12 months, with one high-profile example being the firing of Zhou Jiugeng, former director of a real estate management bureau in Jiangsu province, after authorities investigated his lavish lifestyle following the publication of photographs on the Internet last year.
And the discipline inspection commission in Altay prefecture, Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, even asked its 1,064 county- and division-level officials to declare their property dealings and uploaded parts of the information last month.
Online supervision has also received recognition from Liu Binjie, head of the General Administration of Press and Publication.
"Many problems are first exposed on the Internet and then get the attention of the government," he told reporters last week. "It is playing a very important role in promoting democracy and ensuring the people's right to know. We shall fully encourage and support such supervision."
The role of the Internet in attempts to wipe out corruption has become a hot topic among CPPCC National Committee members and National People's Congress (NPC) deputies.
"With the Internet, it's really hard for authorities to seal off information. It has greatly improved transparency," said Li Jinzhi, a NPC deputy from Henan province, during a panel discussion.
Er Yuehe, another deputy, said the biggest advantage was the easy access. "Compared with other ways to air opinions, the Internet is the easiest and fastest," he added.
However, some deputies and members raised concerns over the style of supervision, saying it was a "double-edged sword".
"People often use fake names when they air opinions online, they don't have to bear the responsibility. That has resulted in many rumors," CPPCC National Committee member Zhu Minhui said.
NPC deputy Wang Pengjie, meanwhile, warned that online supervision could not solve everything.
"If everyone pins their hopes on the Internet, that means our existing anti-corruption mechanism is a problem," he said. "There should be a fair, efficient and authoritative judicial system to cope with the problem. Internet supervision should be only a supplement."
(China Daily 03/11/2009 page7)