| Global Times | 2012-9-2 23:35:06
By Chen Chenchen
Public outrage is far from being quelled since it was revealed last week that Fang Daguo, an official from the Yuexiu district of Guangzhou, had allegedly hit an airline stewardess.
This flight attendant posted on Weibo Friday that Fang, along with his wife, had sincerely apologized and that the incident had been settled. However, many netizens have chosen to believe that the air hostess was "threatened" to announce the reconciliation.
More people began to call for Fang to face legal measures. On Saturday, the Xinhua News Agency ran an interview with Princelione Doubane, a student from the Central African Republic who was on the same flight and witnessed the incident.
According to an earlier investigation by local authorities in Guangzhou, Fang's wife had clashed with the flight attendant, but Fang never attacked her. Doubane's statement, however, overturned this official conclusion by revealing that Fang actually started the assault.
This mirrors a common characteristic of public scandals involving Chinese officials in recently years. These incidents spread like wildfire online, while the local authorities and officials involved find it rather hard to put heated public controversy to bed.
The social background here is evident: At the grass-roots level, conflicts between officials and the public are becoming increasingly problematic. Public opinion is taking an unprecedentedly stern line on the restraining of power. This is why any official's improper actions, whatever the circumstances, can boil over into a public event drawing nationwide attention.
In the wake of the deadly sleeper bus accident in Shaanxi Province in late August, a photo of Yang Dacai, a safety supervision official who was smiling at the crash site, stirred up public outcry. His collection of luxury watches was also noticed, and the Shaanxi provincial disciplinary body has launched a probe to verify any potential discipline violations by Yang.
These incidents have repeatedly exposed how fragile the general image of Chinese officials is. As social aversion to power abuses is entrenched, the negative impact caused by the disclosure of such incidents is hard to offset by measures taken afterward. It's hard to improve officials' public image if they fail to stand up to public scrutiny and remain passive in communication with the people.
In the era of new media, public watchdogs are everywhere. Each official exposed faces not only an outpouring of social criticism, but also the accumulating negative public mood due to previous cases.
All Chinese officials should be cautious and disciplined. Any of their misbehavior may reinforce the public image of their entire corps, and a generally fragile image of Chinese officials could, in turn, become a negative asset for each member.
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