By Tom Bannister
In yet another case of internet vigilantism uncovering government corruption, the mayor of Lanzhou has come under investigation by two university students. The students, from Guangzhou’s Sun Yat-sen university, noticed that the mayor, Yuan Zhanting, seemed to be wearing a different expensive watch each time he appeared in a publicity photo. They posted photos of him wearing the different watches on the internet and the incident became known as “名表门” (Expensive watch-gate) as news outlets picked-up the story. The Guangzhou students then contacted Gansu authorities asking for details of Yuan’s salary, finding it unlikely that he could have afforded the watches on his salary alone. After seeing the photos a student at Sichuan University in Chengdu also wrote to Yuan’s superiors telling reporters that:
“It might be a good opportunity, as the new generation of the leadership is calling for more transparent government…It can be a good example in the future, even if I fail.”
In China, online vigilantism, also known as ‘human-flesh search engines’, has been a growing phenomenon and this incident is not the first time that they have focused their attention on officials time-pieces. Another incident occurred earlier this year when the under-fire Xian bureau chief Yang Dacai was caught wearing different expensive watches. Yang responded to this scrutiny by saying:
“Over the past ten years or so I have indeed bought five watches. I purchased them at different times, using my legitimate income to buy them”
He was later fired.