Several deputies and members attending the National People's Congress (NPC) and Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) questioned the value of online supervision in exposing corruption on Sunday, dismissing some accusations made by Web users as "vulgar" and "lacking credibility."
Ma Wen, an NPC deputy and vice minister of the Ministry of Supervision, told the China News Service that although the government paid attention to claims made online by whistleblowers, the public should realize that Party disciplinary authorities are at the forefront of the nation's fight against corruption.
"It's hard to say whether online anti-corruption campaigns will become the main channel to fight corruption in the future. Only under the guidance of relevant regulations can such online campaigns be more effective," Ma added.
Ma said that graft scandals exposed by whistleblowers online only represent a small fraction of all corruption cases.
A number of high-profile officials were removed from their posts last year for corruption or misconduct after disciplinary authorities' investigations. Many of these cases, including the November 2012 sacking of Lei Zhengfu, a former local official in Chongqing municipality exposed in a leaked sex tape, were exposed online.
"The strength of personal supervision can be relatively weak and involve ulterior motives, leading some online anti-corruption campaigns to lack credibility," Zheng Gang, a CPPCC member and vice mayor of Danzhou, Hainan Province, told the Xinhua News Agency, noting that information can be "vulgar" when it involves sex scandals.
"I oppose so-called human flesh search methods because it can damage the reputation of innocent officials and cause them to be unfairly judged as guilty," Lin Zhe, a professor at the Party School of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, told the Global Times Monday.
However, Ren Jianming, a professor from Tsinghua University, said online anti-corruption campaigns show enthusiasm from grass-roots people to expose graft.
"Their campaigns not only reveal corruption, but also warn other officials to behave properly," Ren told the Global Times Monday.
But Ren noted rumors can also tarnish reputations of the innocent in such online watchdog campaigns.
In February, a rumor was started on Sina Weibo that implied many local government officials and wealthy businesspeople in Shanxi Province had treated a former deputy Party chief of the province to an extravagant welcoming ceremony after he was released from jail , where he had served time for bribery.
Many media outlets, including the Xinhua News Agency, criticized the local government following the rumors, even though they were proven later to be false, according to previous reports.
Online "human flesh searches," which involve exposing an individual's private details, can also jeopardize investigations by Party disciplinary authorities, Lin noted.