I have written a lot of bad things about China’s Railway Ministry and its 12306 ticket e-commerce site, so you may never have expected to hear this from me, but after the first day of ticket purchases for China’s upcoming Spring Festival holiday, it seems that 12306 may actually be up to the task this year after all. Reports suggest that both the online and the phone ordering systems are operating normally. Honestly, I’m a bit shocked.
Of course, it’s still very early in the season and the real rush on tickets likely won’t occur for at least another few weeks. Tickets A cynic might also point out that the 12306 smartphone apps, which were supposed to arrive in September and then delayed until November, are still nowhere to be found.
But I don’t even need to serve as the cynic here today, because Beijing lawyer Dong Zhengwei is doing it for me. After the Railway Ministry rejected Dong’s request to release informaton about the bidding process that resulted in the Ministry spending $52 million on a buggy website, Dong filed suit in court, and yesterday, a mid-level Beijing court accepted the case.
That doesn’t mean that anything will be released, of course. The court will hold a hearing and then make its ruling, which may then be appealed by either party. If Dong wins the case, the court could compel the Railway Ministry to publicize documents and information related to the bidding process, which are likely to reveal instances of corruption. But that outcome seems relatively unlikely; although they are not supposed to, government organs like the Ministry can and often do exert some influence over court proceedings. On the other hand, though, new Chinese president Xi Jinping has been pushing for a greater crackdown on corruption, and since the Railway Ministry is already considered one of China’s most corrupt institutions, a loss in this court case and subsequent revelations of Ministry corruption likely wouldn’t do much damage to the regime’s legitimacy that hasn’t already been done anyway.
Even if there’s no corruption after all, we’ll be following this case closely, because I want to know how that website could possibly have cost $52 million and taken so long to complete. Plus, I’d also like to see where those smartphone apps are at. Here’s hoping for some disclosures on the horizon!