A Chinese netizen shocked at the expensive timepiece worn by the minister of railways at the site of the Wenzhou train crash has learned a timely trick for seeing which officials are on the take: take a look at the watch on their wrists.
The blogger “Huagoushang General”—or Hua General—recently posted on his microblog a list of watches worn by Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials, as reported by Hong Kong’s Ming Pao newspaper on Sept. 17.
Based on the officials’ average on-the-books incomes, there is little likelihood that they could afford the custom diamond-embedded Omega Seamaster worth over 200,000 yuan (US$31,331) recently sported by the director of a provincial level department of finance.
Nor is it likely that such officials as Vice Minister of Railways Lu Dongfu, Deputy Minister of Health Yin Li, Vice Minister of Science and Technology Zhang Laiwu could afford the watches Hua General identified on their arms—each worth more than 40,000 yuan (US$6,262).
And an official’s salary certainly couldn’t pay for the Patek Philippe watch worth over 700,000 yuan (US$109,589) that Hua General saw a director wearing during a dinner in Beijing, as reported on the Sept. 16 Qilu Evening News. Patek Philippe is a top end brand often associated with royal families.
When higher ranking officials are present, the watches tend to match the relative ranking, Hua General has found. As reported by Qilu Evening News, Hua General said if a provincial governor wears a timepiece worth 30,000 yuan (US$4,700), then the city governor will wear one worth 20,000 yuan (US$3,100) and county director will wear one worth a few thousand yuan.
In mainland China, civil servants are divided into five ranks and 19 levels, with monthly wages ranging from few hundred yuan to over 10,000 yuan (US$1,566). However, officials of the same rank might have different wages depending on the area they are in.
CCP officials are notorious for their corruption, which allows them to live beyond their incomes.
During May of last year, former Director of Fushun City’s Land Planning Bureau Jiang Runli was charged with corruption. It was found that the 55-year-old Jiang owned six different pieces of real estate, 253 different luxury handbags, 1,246 items of designer clothing, over 600 pieces of jewelry, and 48 luxury watches.
Hua General would not have predicted that he would spend his time providing evidence of official corruption by identifying the watches officials wear.
He claims that he was the former CEO of a joint venture firm, and before starting his own company, he worked closely with officials. Hua General did not think he would end up on the opposite side from them.
Things changed for him as he watched the TV coverage of the aftermath of the Wenzhou train crash. The deadly crash of high-speed trains in Wenzhou City on July 23 has been heavily criticized by Chinese netizens as caused by official corruption.
Hua General accidentally noticed that the Minister of Railways Sheng Guangzu was wearing a Rolex watch that is worth more than 70,000 yuan (USD$10,966). After searching for more images online, he was very shocked.
Hua General found that on different occasions, Sheng Guangzu wore a number of luxury watches, including a Piaget Altiplano, Glashutte Original Senator Automatic, Omega Constellation, and others.
“[I] could only verify the exact model of four watches. They are worth a total of over 400,000 yuan (US$62,622),” Hua General wrote on his blog.
Hua General came by his knowledge of watches naturally. He loved them as a child, and then acquired some professional knowledge as an adult.
His methods of getting the goods on the crooked CCP bosses are very simple. He uses Google image to search for “secretary general,” “director,” and “provincial governor,” then looks for larger images. Many of these images are clear enough to see the watches worn by the officials.
Hua General believes the public has a right to know what watches the officials are wearing, and mainland netizens have agreed. They see Hua General’s efforts as a symbol of the attempts to fight corruption in China.
Chinese officials seem to have taken a different view. Ming Pao reported on Sept. 19