The power of Chinese social media was demonstrated when a viral photo of a government official receiving a piggyback ride across a flooded path to avoid damaging his shoes, was shared online, proving that social media is one of the government’s most useful watchdog resources. 

This is just the latest incident in which government officials have been seen in public getting piggyback rides.

According to multiple sources on Weibo, China’s Twitter, the official's surname is Wang, and he was a vice director of a government office in China’s central Jiangxi province. What presumably outraged netizens was that Wang didn’t want to ruin his leather shoes, and he was carried on the back of an aide through the ankle-deep water. The photos landed him in trouble with the central government, which is seeking to improve the reputation of public officials, some of whom are considered corrupt and overprivileged.

“While others in the community were worried about the children missing in the river because of floods, this guy was worried about his shoes?” one blogger who shared the photo on Weibo said.

Other bloggers were more optimistic, saying this doesn’t top the ranks of official’s mistakes.

“What are you so angry about? It’s nothing compared with raping children and bribery,” a blogger offered in defense. “Why remove him from his position just because he was carried on his staff’s back? There are more types of ‘cockroaches’ [officials] worse than him,” another added.

“Wang, vice director of a government office, was about to cross a flooded path when Ding, a low level clerk, offered him the ride,” state-run Xinhua News Agency reported. “The inappropriate act had a negative social impact and tarnished the image of party officials.” Wang was subsequently fired.

Last October, an official in the central coast province of Zhejiang, also surnamed Wang, was sacked after several photos similarly went viral. Wang was photographed receiving a piggyback ride through some high water on the shoulders of a local villager after Typhoon Fitow hit the area, reportedly because he was wearing expensive “cloth” shoes.

To his credit, Wang was reportedly going to just walk barefoot through the water, when the villager insisted on giving him a ride.