Mao once said, “Only by letting people supervise the government can the government remain effective.” The Communist Party’s top antigraft agency has apparently taken that to heart in its own wired way.
The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection has added a new function to its mobile app and opened an online platform to allow citizens to report corruption, according to the commission’s website. The moves come two years into President Xi Jinping’s anticorruption campaign, in which he has vowed to take on officials at upper and lower levels, so-called tigers and flies.
The function added on Thursday to the app, which was released in January, allows users to report 11 types of behavior that Mr. Xi has declared off limits for officials: accepting bribes; using public funds to dine or travel; and holding lavish wedding banquets or funerals for family members.
The online platform, released Friday, accepts a wider range of complaints about violations of party discipline, including participating in religious activities and spreading rumors that may tarnish the state’s image. It also allows users to check confirmed discipline violations across the country and to submit suggestions to the commission on its work.
Users can upload up to two pictures or video clips to support their claims of corruption. Both the app and the platform accept anonymous reports.
“We meant to build a convenient, fast and direct oversight platform, pooling the wisdom of the people, uniting the forces of the masses and forming an ubiquitous oversight net,” the commission explained on its website.
The commission’s latest moves to involve the public come after several municipal governments’ own attempts to curb corruption by asking citizens to report it online. Before the Labor Day holiday on May 1, the discipline authorities of Hengshui, Hebei Province, invited people to send photographs of suspected discipline violations by officials.
The new app function and web platform have prompted online commentary, some skeptical and some mocking.
“You think reporting means the cases will be investigated? Stop kidding me,” wrote a Weibo user named Liu Ming under an online report by the state broadcaster CCTV. “No matter how you report officials, the outcome will always depend on how powerful the people behind them are.”
Another user worried whether the identities of informers would be protected. “They can easily find out which messages are sent from which IP address,” she posted.
Zhu Ruifeng, a Beijing-based citizen reporter and founder of a website that is blocked in China but that invites ordinary citizens to submit evidence on corruption, dismissed the commission’s moves as a “show.”
“They’re having trouble maintaining the anticorruption campaign after Zhou Yongkang only got life imprisonment in such a big case, which was a total joke,” Mr. Zhu said in a telephone interview, referring to the former chief of domestic security, who recently was sentenced for abuse of power, the disclosure of state secrets and accepting 731,100 renminbi, about $119,000, in bribes. “Zhou Yongkang taking several hundred thousands in bribes? He’d be laughed at by a county official.”
“The C.C.D.I. is merely trying to sway public opinion and boost people’s confidence, trying to convince them that we are still actively fighting corruption,” said Mr. Zhu, who became an Internet celebrity in 2012 after posting a secretly recorded video of a Chongqing official having sex with his 18-year-old mistress. The official lost his job afterward.
Mr. Zhu said that the authorities have always tried to gag Chinese and foreign journalists who expose corruption, and have repulsed or even persecuted petitioners lining up outside the State Bureau for Letters and Calls in Beijing to appeal to the state for justice.
“They even ignore those who approach them in person,” he said. “So what’s the point of asking people to upload pictures to report corruption?”
One new university graduate from Tianjin said he thought it was a good thing that the commission was inviting ordinary people to report corruption, but has concluded that the app was “of no use at all” to him. He asked to be identified only by his surname, Ma, because he is about to join a state-owned company and felt he could not speak for attribution to the news media without authorization.
“My friends and I downloaded the app, because we think it’s quite cool that you can report corruption by uploading photos anytime and anywhere,” Mr. Ma wrote in a text message.
“But I’m just a small potato,” he said. “How often do I get to see powerful people? I haven’t even seen junior officials much. And once I start working, how would I dare report my own bosses?”By VANESSA PIAO