I do not think that I had even heard the word ‘whistleblower,’ till couple of years ago. In those days, to reveal some secrets, was not something that was considered as honourable and decent. Such persons would be labeled as untrustworthy, undependable, unreliable and unfaithful or even dishonest and dishonorable. When the matters related to the state secrets, they would be called traitors. But with Internet, came a new breed of people, who instead of being called all that are now being called as whistleblowers. The first whistleblower came with the Wikileaks and the Consulate cables and then this year arrived Edward Snowden.
Just to indicate, how things have changed after Internet has happened, is the fact that four former U.S. intelligence officials presented The Sam Adams Award “for Integrity in Intelligence” to Mr. Snowden, at a secret meeting in Moscow on Wednesday, 9th October 2013, before he met his father. The four, who presented the award to Mr. Snowden — Coleen Rowley, ex-FBI official; Andrews Drake ex-N.S.A official; Ray McGovern, ex-official from C.I.A.; and Jesselyn Radack, exJustice Department official — refused to say where they met with Mr. Snowden or where he is living, but said that Mr. Snowden appeared in good spirits. The award named after Samuel A. Adams, a C.I.A. whistleblower during the Vietnam War, is given annually. WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange were awarded with this prize in 2010.
Even in China, which is one of the most rigidly controlled states, a new breed of whistleblowers is now appearing on internet, after President Xi Jinping’s much publicised crackdown on official corruption, though for purely personal reasons. Corruption at high places remains an extremely touchy and sensitive subject with Chinese microbloggers. So when Ms Ji Yingnan, the 26-year-old former presenter of China Tourism and Economy Television admitted that she has been a mistress to her former lover Mr Fan Yue, a deputy director at the State Administration of Archives in the full glare of China’s hundreds of millions of microblog users, and posted on the Net, videos and photos of herself and her lover there were unprecedented angry reactions.
But what shocked the Chinese net community most was the fact that Fan Yue gave to her mistress more than $1,000 a day as pocket money, a staggering sum of cash, and a luxury car and promises of an apartment. The pictures released on the net showed pictures of the couple enjoying shopping sprees, splashing about in a private swimming pool, and at a party, where the official asked his mistress to marry him.
Sex scandals, happen in all countries. In UK many ministers have been caught in such scandals. But the difference in China is that the government officials are using public money to pay for their love lives. Chinese Government is highly secretive and there are no checks and balances. Nothing is clear in China. The public does not know what officials are up to and that is why official corruption is one of the most hated thing by Chinese public.
Reason for Ji Yingnan’s revelations however appears to be her personal vendetta. According to her, she exposed her boyfriend after she discovered that he was married with a teenage son. She says: “I had no idea he was such a liar. He always promised to marry me and I always thought he would be my fiance, or even husband.”
In May 2013, a powerful energy official, Liu Tienan, was sacked from his post, when his former mistress told a journalist that her lover had helped defraud banks of $200 million. Former Railways Minister Liu Zhijun, jailed for corruption earlier this year, reportedly kept 18 mistresses. Lei Zhengfu, former Communist Party chief of Chongqing city’s Beibei district, was involved in a sex tape scandal. Ultimately, Lei lost his job and was tried for accepting bribes of 3.16 million yuan (US$515,000) in relation to this sex scandal and finally landed in jail.
Many of the scandals have been exposed by an anti-corruption blogger Zhu Ruifeng on his web site. He says that government officials are using public money to pay for their love lives. Zhu’s exposures were really too much for the Chinese Government and Chinese censors cracked down on Zhu Ruifeng in July 2013 when his on-line presence disappeared. Since then in a typical beaurocratic style, more than 100 privately-run news websites have been shut down in China in what the government calls a move against extortionists, but what critics say is a campaign against citizen journalists. It is obvious that the communist party does not like exposures.
Internet means many things for many people, but for freedom lovers and who wish to see transparency in Government dealings, it has brought up new possibilities. World can never be the same with Internet, that is for sure.
(First published in Akshardhool on 14th October 2013)