As a Party member, former police officer Chi Wen thought he was doing the right thing when his independent investigation confirmed rumors of the deputy police chief’s extramarital affair.
But Chi’s use of a GPS tracker and a hidden camera to record the rendezvous for the local discipline inspection office instead landed him in detention. He is now suing the police station, arguing that his unorthodox measures were an “act of justice,” Sixth Tone’s sister publication The Paper reported Monday.
The 44-year-old whistleblower had previously served as a police officer at the Huangyan District public security bureau in Taizhou, Zhejiang province; the details of when he left his post, and for what reason, are unclear. Last June, he tipped off the local discipline inspection office that the deputy police chief, Zhou Xianghui, was having an extramarital affair. A few months later, the bureau detained Chi for invading Zhou’s personal privacy by capturing the affair on a hidden camera.
According to The Paper’s report, Chi had been tracking Zhou for over a year after hearing rumors of an affair. By planting a GPS tracking device on the bottom of Zhou’s vehicle, Chi discovered that Zhou was meeting his mistress in an underground parking deck — so he installed a hidden camera in the area to capture proof of Zhou’s infidelity.
Chi told The Paper that he sent videos to the district’s discipline inspection office in June 2017. He added that he and Zhou had not got along when they worked together.
However, Yang Xin, a member of the Huangyan District supervisory commission — a Party organ that shares offices and works closely with the discipline inspection committee — told The Paper that while the commission had not received any evidence from Chi, Zhou had confessed to the affair in July after finding the tracking device on his car. The deputy secretary of the discipline inspection office , meanwhile, said that Chi’s evidence had been received, as well as some of its content confirmed.
After Zhou’s affair was exposed, he was transferred to another government body in the district. Yang said last week that there was no formal punishment because the affair had not had a negative impact on society — however, the Huangyan District government announced on Monday afternoon that Zhou would be suspended from his current post, pending an investigation.
Although adultery is not a crime in China, it is included in the Communist Party’s rigorous code of ethics: Any Party member whose extramarital relationship has a “negative impact on society” can be punished with as little as a warning or as much as expulsion.
The Huangyan District public security bureau had not responded to Sixth Tone’s questions about Chi’s allegations and Zhou’s punishment by time of publication.
At Thursday’s trial, Chi’s attorney argued that Zhou’s adultery was not an issue of privacy because he was a public official — and as such any illicit sexual relationships could be fertile ground for corruption. “As a Party member,” Chi told The Paper, “I gave up my private time to collect evidence of [Zhou’s] rule-breaking. It’s an act of justice.”
On Chinese social media, Chi’s supporters are calling him a whistleblower who was wrongfully blamed and punished. “You can’t give tip-offs without evidence, yet having evidence is said to be an invasion of privacy?” commented one incredulous user on microblog platform Weibo.
But Sun Cheng, a lawyer at DeBund Law Offices in Shanghai, told Sixth Tone that Chi’s actions were indeed an invasion of privacy. “Private supervision of public officials should fall within the legal parameters because individuals are not entitled to fulfill the roles of investigative organs,” he said.
In March, four people in central Hunan province were arrested for blackmailing local officials with photos and videos of them violating Party rules. As in Chi’s case, the four were suspected of using GPS tracking devices to surveil their targets.
“Citizens who supervise the authorities and expose their rule-breaking in a legal way should be encouraged and protected,” Sun said. “But blackmailing with evidence obtained illegally is a crime — and not something I would encourage.”
A verdict in Thursday’s trial has yet to be announced.
Editor: David Paulk.
(Header image: A surveillance camera is mounted inside a police car on patrol in Beijing, Feb. 28, 2011. Pu Feng/VCG)