Chinese reality TV series shows lives of corrupt officials

Beijing, Oct 21 (IANS) For the first time in China, a reality TV series that provides a peek into the lives of allegedly corrupt senior party officials and attempts to show their journey to the wrong side of the law, has begun airing this week on state broadcaster CCTV.

Produced in collaboration with China’s main anti-corruption watchdog, and titled “Always on the Road”, the first of its eight episodes, telecast on October 17, grabbed millions of eyeballs and sparked over half a million comments on social media platforms, Efe news reported on Friday.

The first episode revolved around the lives of three disgraced officials, including a senior party official from Hebei province, who were tried for bribery and were now awaiting the verdict.

“I never dreamed of coming to this end… I come from a poor family and have always hated corrupt officials but I myself have become one now. This is extremely sad,” confesses Zhou Benshun, former party secretary of northern China’s Hebei Province, on the programme.

The episode revealed how Zhou lived in an over 8,600 sq.ft. house, and employed a secretary, a driver, two cooks and two maid servants — one of them hired solely to look after his pet tortoise.

Also featured was Bai Enpei, former party secretary from Yunnan province in far southwest China, who was candid about the reasons that led him to embezzle funds and accept bribes.

He explained how his way of thinking changed after he saw “other people living in luxurious homes, driving around in expensive cars and even owning private jets” and he told himself that he too wanted that life.

It took the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection — the ruling party’s anti-graft body, and sponsor of the series — ten days just to inspect and prepare an inventory of the wealth amassed by Bai, including precious jade jewellery, expensive tea sets and mahogany furniture.

Bai was sentenced to jail for over a decade of corrupt practices.

The programme also provides a rare peek into the anti-corruption campaign led by President Xi Jinping, which punished 336,000 high-ranking officials in 2015.

One viewer, Zhu Changyao, said the cases in the series have made an impact.

Another, commenting under the pseudonym Huozhe Hutu, complained against the censorship, remarking that it was contradictory to show the fight against corruption and yet forbid expression of views.