The official at the center of a recent storm of controversy has fallen deeper into disrepute, after photos emerged of Yang Dacai, the Shaanxi official who smiled at the site of a fatal accident, wearing not just expensive watches but high-priced glasses and belts as well.
Yang, the director of the Shaanxi Administration of Work Safety, was already being investigated by the authorities due to the many pictures that had been posted online showing him wearing a range of expensive watches, some believed to be worth more than 100,000 yuan ($16,000).
The pictures, posted as part of a campaign by Web users to expose Yang's assets, are likely to intensify calls that he be punished, despite the fact that he is already under investigation.
Some of the pictures posted on Wednesday showed him wearing seven different expensive belts on various occasions.
"I want to draw people's attention. I can't imagine that an official who is a fanatic when it comes to procuring luxury watches is serving the people wholeheartedly. There must be corruption involved. I believe in the power of the Internet, and enough attention may pressure the related departments to impose harsh penalties on the corrupt official," Wang Wenyu, the Internet commentator in Shenzhen, who posted the Weibo pictures, told the Global Times.
Wang tried to ask some friends who worked in the luxury industry to help identify the brands of the belts, but failed because the photos were unclear, he said.
Five photos of expensive glasses being worn by Yang have also been posted online. Internet users claimed one pair of the glasses was from Roters, a German brand, estimated to be worth at least 130,000 yuan.
The Yang controversy has stirred up a larger hornets nest. An anchorman from a TV station in Weinan, Shaanxi posted a microblog comment, claiming that a group of officials took off their watches together before they accepted interviews on TV.
Meanwhile, a microblog post teaching officials to use their right hand to cover the watches on their left hands when posing for photos has been spread widely around the Internet.
The situation proved to an opportunity for interesting discussion when CCTV anchorman Rui Chenggang raised extra questions during his dialogue with international business tycoons Tuesday, asking them what kind of watches they wore and found that instead of luxurious watches, they wear ordinary ones worth mere hundreds of dollars.
On August 29, Yang claimed he had bought five watches over the last 10 years using legitimate income, but the public seems far from convinced.
"Using modern technology to supervise the government and officials is an inevitable choice to ensure a democratic system," Cai Zhiqiang, an anti-graft professor said.
Officials should not focus on how to protect themselves from exposure in the Internet age, Cai said. Instead, they should think about how to improve their ability to serve the people, the professor added.