Monday, September 19, 2011

China censors survey of officials' luxury watches

BEIJING: The Chinese authorities are said to have censored a survey of luxury watches worn by government officials published online by a private citizen whose investigation had been lauded by the official media.

Internet user 'Huaguoshanzongshuji' told Agence France-Presse yesterday that his research had been erased last Saturday night from his account on the microblogging site Weibo, a Chinese equivalent of Twitter.

He blamed the move on 'pressure from the propaganda department', AFP reported.

The man, who identified himself to AFP as 'Daniel Wu', had been posting pictures of Chinese officials stating the brand and the value of their wristwatches ever since he noticed Railways Minister Sheng Guangzu wearing a 70,000-yuan (S$13,700) Rolex and one of his deputies, Mr Lu Dongfu, sporting a 50,000-yuan model.

That was when Mr Sheng appeared frequently before the media in late July following a deadly high-speed rail crash in eastern China.

Since then, Mr Sheng was found to also possess an Altiplano, a Glashutte Original, a Senator Automatic, and an Omega Constellation Chronometer, with a total value of at least 400,000 yuan, the Radio France Internationale reported, quoting from the 'watch watcher'.

The survey was subsequently extended to more officials, including Mr Sun Jingmiao, a senior official in the eastern province of Zhejiang, who was spotted wearing a Rolex worth 70,000 yuan.

Another was Mr Zhou Wenzhang, vice- president of the China National School of Administration, who was found wearing a Piaget Emperador estimated to be worth 100,000 yuan.

According to Hong Kong's Ming Pao Daily News, 'Huaguoshanzongshuji' is a watch aficionado and the executive director of a joint venture company.

The official Xinhua news agency paid tribute to the 'watch watcher' in a comment last Saturday, saying the fight against corruption 'should follow' his method.

'A simple watch can reveal the hidden corruption of some greedy officials and it shows that corruption leaves its mark,' it warned.