Whistleblowers pay price even as China vows to fight corruption

Sun Aug 4, 2013 5:13pm EDT
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By Sui-Lee Wee

HUIZHOU, China (Reuters) - Chinese bloggers trying to expose corruption say they are coming under increasing physical and verbal attack over their reports, in what anti-graft activists describe as another blow to efforts to make Chinese officials more accountable.

At least six self-styled whistleblowers have been assaulted or harassed in recent months, according to media reports, Internet postings and several of the bloggers who spoke to Reuters.

Two unidentified men stabbed blogger Li Jianxin in the face and splashed acid on his back on July 8. Li, now blind in his right eye, remains in hospital in the southern city of Huizhou.

The attacks coincide with a government crackdown on activists demanding officials disclose their wealth, underscoring the limits of an anti-corruption push by President Xi Jinping.

Xi, who became president in March, has called for action against graft, warning, as many Chinese leaders have before him, that the problem could threaten the ruling Communist Party's survival.

"If President Xi Jinping is serious about fighting graft, then he should ensure that these individuals are protected from such intimidation and persecution," said Maya Wang, a researcher at Human Rights Watch.

Xi has said the "supervision of the people" is needed to fight corruption.

Indeed, Li said he and other whistleblowers were encouraged when they heard officials discuss "public opinion-based oversight" of power during China's annual parliament session in March. Li said he thought that meant the government wanted the Internet to be a tool to weed out corruption.   Continued...

Li Jianhuang (L) feeds his brother, blogger and online whistleblower Li Jianxin, who is waiting for a fourth operation at a hospital in the southern Chinese city of Huizhou, Guangdong province July 23, 2013. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu