Liu Mingli, who was sent to the village of Guhe by the government of Fuyang, Anhui province, in 2014 to work on poverty alleviation, has been unable recently to log into an app that she used to upload photos and summaries of her daily work.
It's part of an effort by the authorities to curb formalism and bureaucracy, freeing workers from routine tasks of little importance and letting them focus on more substantial things.
At the end of 2017, the provincial poverty alleviation authorities launched a smartphone application that proved to be a headache for thousands of officials who, like Liu, had been sent to rural areas to assist.
"I was supposed to upload photos showing that I was working in the village, and summaries every working day," Liu said.
Photos could only be uploaded via the app's camera function, instead of from the cellphone's photo album.
"Sometimes it was just hard to write the summaries, because the daily work is quite similar, but the summaries should be different," she said, adding that the system also tracked her location.
The problems with the system were soon noticed by higher authorities.
From October to November, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China sent 26 inspection groups to eight provinces, four autonomous regions and Chongqing municipality, as well as to 11 departments of the central government and two banks, to look into how they have been conducting poverty alleviation work.
Criticism of formalism and bureaucracy features in many of the inspection reports, including the ones for Anhui and Hubei provinces, the Tibet and Xinjiang Uygur autonomous regions and Agricultural Bank of China.
A meeting to report the inspection's results was held in mid-January, and a statement was issued afterward saying that formalism and bureaucracy were frequently found in aspects of provincial-level poverty alleviation work.
The disciplinary and supervisory authorities of Anhui released a series of measures later, including a ban on the requirement of officials to provide work reports via WeChat and QQ, or any smartphone application.
Provincial-level inspections in Anhui will decrease by at least 70 percent this year, while city- and county-level ones should drop by more than 50 percent.
Wuhan, Hubei province, also said no to setting up excessive WeChat groups.
Chen Ping, a village cadre from Fuyang, said he believed formalism and bureaucracy were widely present in many areas of the local government.
"We had to provide too many figures and summary documents to many local governmental departments, and cope with too many inspections," he said.
Chan also complained that there were too many WeChat groups to which work reports had to be distributed.
The requirement for officials to provide records of their workdays was designed to curb formalism and bureaucracy, but the solution itself became an example of the problem, showing how formalism is deeply rooted, according to a commentary by Beijing Youth Daily.
The work process is what's important, while evaluating the government's performance should rely more on results and society's opinion, the Xinhua Daily Telegraph concluded in a report in November. It said that formalism hinders local officials' work in many parts of the country.