Online deluge washes away China 'piggyback' official

BEIJING (AFP) - A Chinese official who tried to save his shoes by taking a piggyback during a flood has lost his job instead, reports said Monday, the latest example of Internet users holding bureaucrats to account.

It is the second time in a year that a ruling Communist Party official has been sacked after photos showed him riding on another person through a flooded area.

The incident took place during a search for three primary schoolchildren who had fallen into a river in the central province of Jiangxi, the official Xinhua news agency said.

A low-level staffer offered to give the official - the vice-director of a government office in Guixi who was identified only by his surname, Wang - a lift across an area ankle-deep in water, Xinhua said.

A photo of the episode went viral on China's popular online social networks soon afterwards, showing Wang clinging to the back of the staffer who was also carrying a black briefcase.

It triggered widespread outrage.

"The students are missing, and still he's trying to save his damn shoes? And this kind of scumbag can become a government official?" one user wrote Monday on Sina Weibo, a Chinese Twitter equivalent.

The Chinese Internet is heavily censored by the Communist Party, but occasionally pictures of officials' missteps posted online have led to action by authorities seeking to quell public outrage.

Last October a local official in the eastern province of Zhejiang was removed from his post after taking a piggyback ride from a villager while visiting flood victims.

The official, also surnamed Wang, had been wearing cloth shoes and was "insisting on walking barefoot" when the villager lifted him on his back, Xinhua reported at the time.

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