08/05/2013, 00.00
CHINA
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Acid and other attacks are Beijing's answer to those who out corrupt officials

President Xi Jinping launched a crusade against bribery and embezzlement in the Party, calling on people to expose crooks. A number of bloggers and activists who took him seriously have ended up in hospital or disappeared into thin air. Li Jianxin, stabbed and splashed with acid, lost an eye.

Beijing (AsiaNews) - Despite edicts issued by Chinese President Xi Jinping against corruption, anyone who dares to blow the whistle on Communist Party officials end up beaten, jailed or splashed with acid.

At least six self-styled whistle-blowers have been assaulted or harassed in recent months by unidentified men or law enforcement agents, according to NGOs and human rights groups.

In March 2013, speaking immediately after his election as the nation's supreme leader, President Xi warned Chinese officials and the Chinese people that "embezzlement and bribery" would not be tolerated, that government officials had to stop using "luxury cars" and wasting public goods, which affects the country's image. Popular supervision is needed to "fight corruption."

Blogger Li Jianxin took the president's statement seriously and posted a series of allegations against government officials in Huizhou, a city in the rich southern province of Guangdong, who stole public funds, confiscated land from its rightful owners and promoted relatives to positions of power.

Two unidentified men stabbed blogger Li Jianxin in the face and splashed acid on his back on 8 July. Li, now blind in his right eye (pictured), remains in a Huizhou hospital.

"It was like a boost to the heart," Li, 45, said about the president's statement. "It signified that the nation's leaders attach importance and support our anti-corruption efforts".

However, police have not found who was behind the attack against him or followed up on his complaints.

Zhu Guoyu, the secretary-general of the Maoming People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries and head of the international liaison office in the city, has a similar story to tell.

Through internet, he exposed graft among his colleagues, something his bosses do not like. "They try to keep me busy so I don't have time to whistle-blow," he said.

Last September, men in two cars chased him. In 2011, he was stabbed by unknown assailants but survived.

Four other people, very active on the internet, have disappeared. According to some NGOs, they are held in China's "black jails", i.e. hotels or industrial sites where police hole up "undesirables".

Despite the threats faced by bloggers and whistle-blowers, the tide is turning in their favour, Zhu Guoyu said.

"There are so many people watching, I believe paper can't wrap up a fire," he said, referring to a Chinese saying that means the truth cannot be hidden for too long.

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