By Kevin M. Mathewson
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BEIJING, China — Yang Dacai, a Chinese official who sparked a national outcry after images showed him grinning while on the scene of a fatal bus crash, has pled guilty to corruption charges.

Mr Dacai said he used his legal income to buy the many watches he owned.

In Xi’an Intermediate People’s Court, Yang admitted to taking 250,000 yuan (40,518 U.S. dollars) in bribes.

Dacai is the latest Chinese government official to be ousted from his position by online whistleblowers.

His trial comes during growing public anger over the allegations of corruption in the Chinese government. A majority of the protests occur online with drives against corruption, and internet users increasingly pursuing those perceived as having done wrong through online exposure.

Dacai has been Nicknamed “Brother Watch” by internet users after images of him wearing various luxury watches circulated online. Dacai has been seen wearing 11 luxury watches; five of which combined are worth more than 300,000 Yuan (48,000 U.S. dollars).

Chinese citizens on the internet have argued that Dacai should not have been able to afford the watches on his salary as a civil servant.

However, Dacai has claimed that he “used legal income” to buy a number of watches, saying that the most expensive one he owned was worth 35,000 Yuan (5,500 U.S. dollars).

After an initial investigation, Dacai was removed as the head and chief of the provincial work safety administration and was dismissed from his post as a member of the Shaanxi Provincial Commission for Discipline Inspection of the Community Party of China (CPC).

Yu Guoming, deputy dead of journalism at Renmin University of China, said the positive response and timely punishment showed the authorities commitment to anti-graft campaigning and boosted the Chinese enthusiasm to root out corruption clues.

Last December, Yuan Zhanting, the mayor of Lanzhou, the capital of China’s relatively poor northwestern province of Gansu, was ridiculed after pictures surfaced of him wearing luxury watches. One of them, an Omega, worth 150,000 Yuan (24,000 U.S. dollars).

In recent weeks, there have been signs that this internet campaign has worried authorities, resulting in a number of journalists being arrested for “rumor-mongering”, one being a high-profile blogger.

For further information, please see:

BBC News – Trial for China’s ‘smiling official’ Yang Dacai – 30 August 2013

Yahoo! News – China’s ‘smiling face’ official on trial for graft – 30 August 2013

Channel News Asia – China’s ‘smiling face’ official on trial for graft – 30 August 2013

Global Post – China’s ‘smiling face’ official on trial for graft – 31 August 2013

Author: Kevin Mathewson