An opinion piece in the Global Times Saturday said: "Firefighters are making artificial rain using their firehose in a deserted area. Officials are holding umbrellas in the rain, doing their inspections. Cameramen are busy issuing directions.
"This is the scene described in a microblog post that went viral on Weibo, China's popular Twitter-like site. The post drew immediate criticism, anger, wrath and mocking accusations from netizens for what many are calling a 'fake inspection in artificial rain'."
The official response was that they were not conducting an inspection. The scene was for a promotional video to attract investors for the Leshan High-Tech Development Zone in Southwest China's Sichuan Province.
"We don't know which version of the story is true. But one can't help but ask the question: Why do we constantly see vehement knee-jerk responses from the public asserting that officials are cheating?," asked the daily.
The article said that if one types the Chinese character for "officials" on Baidu, China's most popular search engine, "the top 10 suggestions are almost all negative, involving disgraceful pictures, orgies, sex scandals, expensive watches, corruption, and so on".
Referring to another incident, the daily said the story about officials' watches refers to a scandal surrounding a Chinese official who was discovered to have about a dozen expensive timepieces in his personal collection.
"Common sense would lead one to believe that an official in his position couldn't afford such luxury goods unless he abused his power for personal gain."
"What do these frequently searched phrases tell us," it asked, and responded: "No matter what you think about these scandals, their prevalence in online searches unquestionably points out the uncomfortable fact that the Chinese public has very little confidence in officials."
"It may also explain why many Internet users regarded the inspection in fake rain as a publicity stunt that was trying to convey these officials as dedicated and hard working," it added.
The article went on to say that in a city where government officials involve themselves in producing fake scenes in such a brazen way, "there's inevitably a credibility issue".
"If they can fake a couple of scenes, who can guarantee they won't fake a nice image of its investment environment? Investing in the city may prove to be not an opportunity, but a nightmare."
Beijing: Firehoses being used for fake rain during an official inspection in China's Sichuan province triggered online protests and prompted a state-run daily to point to the "uncomfortable fact that the Chinese public has very little confidence in officials".
First Published: Saturday, September 22, 2012, 16:12