WASHINGTON DC —
One of Vietnam's top daily newspapers has removed a photo, reportedly taken inside the gold-plated home of a former party chief, after it sparked outcry on social networks.
The controversial photo, published by Tien Phong (The Vanguard), shows Vietnam’s former Communist Party boss Nong Duc Manh sitting on a golden throne-like chair, elaborately carved with dragon heads for arms.
The image went viral on Vietnamese blogs, sparking heated debate on the morality of Vietnamese officials.
Blogger Huynh Ngoc Chenh, the former managing editor at Thanh Nien, one of the most popular newspapers in Vietnam, said the public is shocked at the luxury seen in the photo.
“It exposed the luxurious life that he is having while ordinary people are experiencing hardships. Moreover, it also reflects his knowledge and poor esthetic taste. People are disappointed in the figure who once led the ruling party for 10 years," he said.
After causing uproar, Tien Phong took the photo offline without any correction or further explanation.
Social activist Le Hien Duc, well-known as the “anti-corruption grandma”, said she has seen a few photos of Manh’s house, which aroused the interest from the public.
“He is a retired party boss. Why is he so rich? Where does his money come from? I think there are more people like him out there, but have not been exposed yet. There are definitely more," she said.
It is unclear what the Ministry of Information and Communications, the country’s media watchdog, will do to the newspaper. Many activists suspect it could be reprimanded for posting the photo.
Manh could not be reached for comments. He led Vietnam’s Communist party from 2001 to 2011.
The photo comes as the government is conducting a public anti-corruption campaign, with leaders saying it is one of their top priorities. Last year, a former chief government inspector was reprimanded for allegedly abusing his position to accrue huge real estate holdings.
This report was produced in collaboration with VOA's Vietnamese Service.