Police in Shuangfeng village of central China's Hunan Province on Friday arrested eight suspects, who allegedly photoshopped officials' headshots on sexually-explicit photos as part of a blackmail plot. The suspects reportedly demanded 45 million yuan ($7.24 million) in total during their attempt to extort government officials and company presidents.
The local police crackdown on extortion gangs should win public applause, especially because forging sexually-explicit photos to blackmail victims is an open secret in Shuangfeng.
However, as numerous sex scandals have inadvertently exposed corrupt officials in recent years, such tactics have been hailed as an effective way to fight widespread corruption, a key frustration among the public.
Last November, a scandal involving Chongqing officials secretly videotaped having sex with women hired to extort construction deals caused public outcry. The scandal led to a probe of former Chongqing district Party chief Lei Zhengfu, which resulted in him being sacked along with 10 other officials.
Most Chinese netizens viewed Zhao Hongxia, the woman filmed having sex with Lei, as an anti-corruption crusader worthy of praise. They also jokingly gave further credit to officials' mistresses, saying they can help spearhead the country's anti-corruption campaign.
"A straight foot is not afraid of a crooked shoe," as the adage goes, but why should officials who have never committed any wrongdoing or shameful act be afraid of being blackmailed?
This could be explained by the public's contempt sparked last year when a Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region government website reportedly blurred headshots of officials to prevent blackmailers from targeting them in doctored sex photos.
Many people expect that more corrupt officials will be caught in the future, particularly through the leaking of sex photos or tapes.
But extortion should not masquerade as an anti-corruption effort because blackmailers lack such virtuous motives in the first place.
Nonetheless, when "illegal industries" have an edge in exposing corruption with magnified support of the public, it neither does good to build people's right sense of the rule of law nor push forward more systematic anti-corruption efforts.
Meanwhile, shouldn't those taking responsibility for error-correcting in society, including the police, disciplinary inspectors and judicial authorities, reflect on themselves if it is their tardy response that leaves room for criminal behavior to flourish?