China has had its share of scandals over fake products endangering the lives of citizens. But how about a scandal involving, well, fake citizens?
A scandal cropped up yesterday on (where else?) China’s microblog platforms when web users alleged that two ordinary citizens in the city of Chengdu selected randomly to take part in public hearings on government policy are in fact “professional actors.” Today, the story has boiled over into traditional media, and four alleged government-backed “citizens” are the focus of angry questioning.
Sichuan’s Huaxi Metropolis Daily, one of the province’s biggest commercial newspapers, now reports that Zhang Jianyuan (张见远), pictured below, has appeared in numerous media reports about public hearings on various policy issues, always with a fake identity.
While Zhang has been identified as “a chief physician at Huaxi Hospital” (华西医院主任医师), an investigation by the newspaper showed that he is not listed among that hospital’s more than 7,000 registered personnel. He has reportedly participated in scores of public hearings, beggaring government claims that citizens are randomly selected to voice their views on various policies. He has responded to such issues as public transportation pricing, water prices, anti-smoking policies, and adjustments in taxi fares, and media reports have variously dubbed him a “citizen representative”, a “consumer representative” and a “physician representative.”
Another focus of attention has been Hu Litian (胡丽天), pictured below, a woman whose “rate of selection,” web users say, has been remarkable given the government’s random selection policy. Hu, it seems, is something of a permanent fixture at government public hearings.
Web users quickly claimed that both of the above-mentioned figures are “internally designated actors” (听证会), and that this undermines the credibility of the government’s public hearing process.
A post on the online Sichuan Forum late yesterday exposed not just Zhang Jianyuan and Hu Litian, but added to the list Liao Binghong (廖冰虹) and Tang Houyi (唐厚义). And the forum posted this photo of all four of these suspected fake citizens sitting together at a local tea shop.