This Article is From Apr 13, 2011

Chinese city tracks officials through GPS-enabled phones

Beijing: The local government of a major Chinese city now tracks down the whereabouts of its officials using GPS-enabled phones. An official is asked where he is and if he lies about his location, strict action is taken against him.

Each government official in Chongqing has been provided with a 3G mobile phone with global positioning system (GPS) to ascertain his location.

Officials are required to keep the phone 24 hours a day and report their location whenever they are contacted. If their report differs from the GPS reading, disciplinary action is taken against them. They may even be asked to resign, the Chongqing Economic Times reported.

Chongqing is a major city in southwest China. It is one of China's four direct-controlled municipalities - the other three being Beijing, Shanghai and Tianjin.

Mu Yong, director of a city inspection office, said a GPS-equipped phone costs about 3,000 yuan ($459), and the minimum monthly cost is 342 yuan ($52), all of which is paid by the local government.

The cost to the government comes to about 1.7 million yuan ($260,000) every year.

Xiao Lichao, a spokesman for a discipline inspection committee, however, told the Chongqing Daily that the government neither buys the GPS phones nor pays the phone bills for the officials. A local telecommunications company provides the phones to the officials for free.

The phones also have video functions to help the watchdog detect whether the officials are lying when they report their locations, said the report.

Mu said the officials are tracked twice a month. Half of them are called at random.

However, officials frequently evade being tracked by claiming that the phone is out of power due to the battery being dead or being dropped in water, a source said.

The system has also come under criticism from the community.

Lin Zhe, a law professor, said that while strengthening the inspection of officials outside working hours was necessary, tailing them with a GPS-equipped phone was the worst way of doing it.