Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Pressuring the Whistle-Blower

Beijing-based independent investigative journalist Zhu Ruifeng
The whistle-blower who released sex tapes of Chinese officials was grilled by Chongqing police in Beijing yesterday for seven hours.

Independent investigative journalist Zhu Ruifeng's most famous catch was that of Lei Zhengfu, the 57-year-old district party chief in Chongqing who was caught on tape having sex with his then 18-year-old mistress. Ten other officials have lost their jobs.

Lei was fired a few days later when his identity was confirmed from the screenshots uploaded online.

Zhu claimed he had more tapes of other officials, which may have prompted the Chongqing authorities to come to Beijing perhaps in the hopes of preempting him from releasing more incriminating evidence.

"Two Chongqing police officers asked me to hand over all the materials I had related to the scandal. I refused because that demand was obviously part of a fishing expedition [to identify the source of the tapes]," Zhu said yesterday after leaving the police station.

He added he would release more material involving senior officials once his source independently verified the authenticity of the tapes.

Zhu's lawyer, Wang Peng, said Chonqing officials are probably concerned about what Zhu may have.

"They are worried that Zhu may keep doing this and reveal more scandals that they can't afford to keep dealing with."

On Sunday evening these police visited Zhu's home, demanding he open the door, and the standoff continued for two hours until he promised to visit the police station on Monday.

Up until now Zhu has not experienced much trouble, and coupled with the central government's order of cracking down on corrupt officials, one would have thought he would be encouraged to expose more people.

But if the harassment of Zhu is a signal of punishing whistle blowers, then the drive to crackdown on corruption in China would have been yet another blip in the attempt to reform the Party.

However Zhu seems prepared for the consequences if they do come.

He has already transferred unreleased copies of the videos to friends in the United States, which he calls "the safest place in the world".

"If something bad happens to me, I hope my friends will release those videos immediately."

While Chongqing officials are terrified of what Zhu may have, we are concerned by the rights of authorities from another city being able to come to Beijing to intimidate a Beijing resident.

What is the law on this? Or perhaps one doesn't even exist.

In any rate, we are confident Zhu will be left alone. What more can the authorities do?

And where is the central government in protecting someone like him, who is helping to catch dirty officials in the current anti-corruption campaign?

If China had an independent media and rule of law, its problems with corruption would have been dealt with ages ago.

Let's hope Communist Party Chairman Xi Jinping continues his threat of catching all "flies and tigers", meaning no one, big or small, will escape punishment.

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