China Is Dressing Up the Wives of Officials to Educate Them Against Corruption

May 26, 2015 Updated: May 26, 2015

The Chinese Communist Party has tried many ways to warn its officials away from the life of corruption: disappearances in the night, torturous interrogation sessions, and hardcore indoctrination in Party discipline and obedience. Now, a new process is being added to the list: dressing their spouses in revolutionary costumes from the 1930s and educating them instead.

Apparently the hope is that they will bring back that message to their husbands, and China will prosper.

The education session was highlighted most recently on May 22, when spouses of 50 Jiangxi officials dressed up in Red Army (the predecessor to the People’s Liberation Army) uniforms to receive “red traditional education,” a special anti-corruption training session.

The 50 women were assembled in Ruijin, a city in Jiangxi Province that was host to some key moments in early Party history, to receive education on the history of the Party. Part of this included education in anti-corruption.

The special training was dismissed by Internet users. Netizen “Jincuo Daohang” remarked, “Can I say that it’s a disguised form of traveling with public funds? They are all officials’ wives, and look at their happy faces. It’s so obvious.” The remark made on May 24 recevied 1,500 likes. Another wrote: “I just want to laugh when I see it.”

A little over a week earlier, on May 13, another indoctrination session was held by the Hubei provincial government, where 70 officials and their spouses were organized to visit a local detention center to experience the life of detained corrupt officials.

After passing through several heavy metal gates and by high walls with electric barbed wire, the officials and spouses visited the cells: over 10 inmates slept on a long wooden bed, while others sat in rows, engaged in “study and self-reflection,” Chinese media reports said.

Photographs of the prisoners and their crimes were listed on the wall, while the detained former officials came out to give speeches to the visitors, wearing handcuffs and prison clothes. “I have a family but can’t go home,” one of the speakers, surnamed Yang, said through a flood of tears. “I can’t honor my parents, and can’t get together with my husband and son. I’m so full of regret.”

A screenshot from Chinese news portal shows officials and spouses in Hubei Province visiting a local detention center to receive anti-corruption education on May 13, 2015. (Screenshot/Epoch Times)
A screenshot from Chinese news portal shows officials and spouses in Hubei Province visiting a local detention center to receive anti-corruption education on May 13, 2015. (Screenshot/Epoch Times)

The scene appeared to have an impact. “I must take it as a warning, reminding myself at all times to not make any mistake over being a clean official,” one of the visitors told Chinese media. The wife of a bureau director also vowed to “supervise” her husband and to “fully support his career,” the report stated.

Part of the problem is that in many official corruption cases, the wives played an important role. For instance, Gu Liping, wife Ling Jihua, the former chief of the Party’s United Front, was said to have exploited her husband’s political influence to gain massive wealth—to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars—through an ostensibly charitable organization.

In another case, Yu Lifang, wife of disgraced Chinese official Su Rong, former vice president of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, sacked in June 2014, was Su’s bagman for accepting bribes, including, a painting worth millions of dollars.

The attempt to educate the wives was thus seen as fairly superficial by Internet users in China. “If those Hubei leaders could publicize their property, it would be more direct and convincing. I believe that many people would support that. I’d rather watch ‘Transformers’ than watching news of you visiting a prison,” wrote one user, who chose to remain anonymous.

Another suggested that a guided tour of an execution ground might be more effective.