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Sutirtho Patranobis, Hindustan Times
Beijing, December 31, 2012
Crime, scandals and stories about ordinary people who became heroes dominated online searches in 2012 in China, which at over 513 million has the largest number web users in the world.

What also emerged as a trend in China's online world was netizens willing to expose corrupt officials.

"Chinese web users were not only passive consumers of news and entertainment, but also active investigators increasingly suspicious of the official storyline. Common themes included skepticism of government and sharp-eyed scrutiny of officials and their families, but also a keen appreciation for light-hearted and unusual stories," Tea Leaf Nation, an e-magazine that tracks China's internet and social media, said in a report.

China's biggest political scandal in years involving the spectacular fall of political star Bo Xilai expectedly dominated the list on Baidu, the country's search engine through the year.

"Starting with the defection of Bo's former right-hand man Wang Lijun in February 2012 (also ranking #1 in Baidu's list of most popular "Social Searches," Baidu's category for searches related to politics, the economy, and other social issues) and culminating with Bo being stripped of all titles and power in September (#3 in social searches), the political upheaval allowed a rare glimpse into the enigmatic shadow puppetry of Chinese politics. Also at the top was national broadcaster China Central Television's (CCTV) story on athlete Liu Xiang's Olympic story.

"Many were already skeptical that an injured right foot was what really caused 2004 gold medalist hurdler Liu Xiang to withdraw from the London Olympics' 110 meter hurdles. When a CCTV interview showed Liu with a cast on his left foot, suspicions spiked.