article

09.23.11

China’s Anthony Weiner

A Chinese bureaucrat accidentally reveals an affair, and corruption, online.

“Baby, it does not feel good when you touch me through all those layers of clothes. I want you to suck with your mouth.”

So wrote Mr. Xie Zhiqiang, the director of a city health bureau in China’s Jiangsu province, on his Weibo account, a Twitter-like social media site in China.

Little did he know that he was about to become the Chinese Anthony Weiner. The minor government official had mistaken Weibo for a private MSN chat, and thought that his postings were only being read by his mistress, a local business executive.

In June, Mr. Xie had attended a college reunion where one of his classmates told him that the latest fashion was to start a Weibo account. He did and so did his mistress. The two started to use Weibo to chat and arrange sexual rendezvous in local hotels.

Mr. Xie’s net-savvy audience even started a chat group on a separate website where they cut and pasted the Weibo conversations between Mr. Xie and his mistress.

This went on for two weeks until a reporter requested an interview. Later Mr. Xie wrote in a report to his superiors as follows:

“My recent flirtation with a woman on Sina Weibo was exposed to the public. I had no idea until reporters knocked on my door. I still don’t understand how other people could read my personal message to a woman, in fact the whole country. I thought Weibo was the same as SMS or chatting on MSN. I had no idea that Weibo is such a dangerous technology. I thought I was very discrete, I had no idea that I ruined my career and hurt my family.”

“I thought Weibo was the same as SMS or chatting on MSN.”

In the same report, he warned his fellow officials of the evils of the Internet, particularly social networks. He even hastened to point out that “the Chinese Internet is morally bankrupt, everyone is looking to violate someone’s privacy on the Internet.”

What Mr. Xie neglected to say was that while the public merely laughed at his Weiner-like behavior, they were outraged that he offered to reimburse his mistress for a Shanghai shopping trip with government funds. “I will approve your expenses as an official business expense,” he wrote in a posting.

As far as the “morally corrupt Chinese internet public” is concerned, the sex talk was just entertainment, but paying his mistress with tax yuan is an entirely different story— and symbolic of the deep corruption within the government that pervades life in China.