A Chinese civil servant who was photographed smiling at the scene of a traffic accident has been fired, China Daily reports, after Weibo users began to investigate his personal finances.
The story begins with a tragic accident, which took place on August 30th in Yan’an, northern Shaanxi, and left 36 dead.
Yang Dacai, 55, head of the Shaanxi Provincial Bureau of Work Safety, was photographed grinning broadly at the scene.
The photo caused widespread controversy in China. Yang, when made aware of the photo, said he had been “unprepared.”
It was too late, however. Suddenly his life was under scrutiny by Weibo users and bloggers, who began what is known in China as a “human flesh search.”
The “human flesh search” is a uniquely Chinese term that has evolved in China as access to the internet spread. In 2008, China Daily referred to it as a “massive online search and spread of an individual’s private information.” The practice has become a recurring theme in Chinese culture, and the government has considered making it a crime.
This time, the “human flesh search” proved fruitful. The very next day a photograph of Yang wearing a multitude of expensive watches was being passed around on Weibo. According to the Telegraph, the watches included an Omega Constellation ($10,000) and a Constantin ($32,000).
In total 11 pricey watches were discovered. Yang claimed that he had bought the watches with his own salary, but Weibo users doubt that he could have afforded them on an honest civil servant’s salary. The Global Times reports that the CPC Shaanxi Provincial Commission for Discipline Inspection began probing Yang’s assets on August 30.
Corruption has been a huge issue in China over the last year, what with tales of the family fortunes of Bo Xilai and Xi Jinping and $1 million Ferrari crashes in Beijing. While China Daily does not reveal exactly why Yang was fired, many Chinese netizens appear very happy with the decision today.
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