Liang Jing: The warning sounded by the Dingzhou event

Thanks to David Kelly from the East Asian Institute of National University of Singapore for the following translation. The original Chinese commentary is by Liang Jing, from Radio Free Asia (via ncn.org).

Before dawn on 11 June, 2 to 300 camouflaged persons of unclear status attacked residents of the village of Shengyou in Dingzhou County, Hebei who were resist¬≠ing a local mafia, leaving at least 6 dead and dozens injured. On June 13, the Hebei provincial Party Committee dismissed Dingzhou’s former Party Secretary and Mayor. The PRC media didn’t dare promptly report this serious event despite repeated broadcasts of live video footage by overseas media, showing how sensitive it was.

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The first thing we pick up from these events is the savagery of the local power groups. Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao have repeatedly expressed open anxiety that local offi¬≠cials may press the people so hard they revolt. They have stressed people-centred government, a harmonious society, and tried to use “advanced-type education” to make the PRC’s scores of million government officials reflect on their misdeeds and practice self-restraint. But now it seems that the lure of material interests is really too great for these local power groups to bother with scruples, they have no hesitation in “committing crimes regardless”, adopting extreme illegal methods to deal with peasants who dare to defend their own rights and interests.

Something else we pick up from the events in Dingzhou is that the peasant revolt to safeguard their rights is robust. Despite dozens of them being killed and injured, they didn’t retreat. We can see from this that the people in some places have already been pushed to the point of having nothing to lose.

The Dingzhou mafia must really have been blinded by greed to choose such stupid means of dealing with the peasants of an area so imbued with a tradition of martial resistance. They had obviously forgotten that this was where Zhu Laozhong and his mates, heroes of the novel and film “Keep the Red Flag Flying,” were once active. But while the event may look extreme, it was certainly no accident: it occurred against the background of the “people-centred” proposals of Hu and Wen failing to result in the slightest self-restraint on the part of the local power groups. It has on the contrary only confirmed their belief that they have no tomorrow, only today to grab what they can more crazily than ever. For the most part, they do not need to do something as dumb as hiring murder squads, but use their power and influence to speed up the plunder of resources, whether it be by wantonly discharging pollution, racing into large-scale projects vastly harmful in future like dam-building, etc.. For the sake of individual personal gains of a few hundred thousand or million, the PRC’s local bigwigs do not hesitate to let society and later generations suffer losses of tens or hundreds of billions. People in the street are aware of but can do nothing about the crazed minds of such corrupt officials.

Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao are undoubtedly aware that there will be extremely ser¬≠ious con¬≠sequences if, like Jiang Zemin, they continue to allow local power groups to brazenly grab personal gain. The problem is, in the game between Hu and Wen and the local power groups, it’s becoming ever clearer that the former have been unable to come up with any effective way of containing the actions of the latter.

The noisy “advanced-type education” movement is no more than getting all the CCP bureaucrats to lie collectively, act collectively in a play, and very likely has encouraged rather than struck at the arrogance of the local power groups. Given their utter hypocrisy, they can do nothing to enhance healthy tendencies inside or outside the Party, but have on the contrary exposed the leaders’ incompetence and limited repertoire of tricks.

Granted, Hu himself may have no wish to consort with corrupt officials: he hopes to find and train a goodly cohort of incorruptible, honest cadres within the CCP. But is this realistic? In a Party which has for many years been on a binge of using power for gain, finding such a cohort is, it would seem, already out of the question.

In terms of the handling of the Dingzhou event, facing ubiquitous local power groups, what Hu Jin­tao can ask is that local officials maintain minimum standards, and do not go to the point of run­ning around killing people. So long as they keep to this, Hu and Wen can keep pretending to not see many things, but when fatalities occur local officials will lose their jobs. This is the real news which the Dingzhou event has sent.

In its wake, officials everywhere must of course be especially careful to avoid more fatalities, and the local power groups have the wit to draw this lesson. But the daily mounting problems of social injustice are not thereby solved. There can only be more and more poor people willing to risk all. One may imagine that the camouflaged “people of unclear status” who attacked the villagers of Shengyou were themselves mostly poor people. While the numbers of such poor people with nowhere to go continues to grow, evils of all kinds will only increase.



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China, Corruption

June 22, 2005 9:12 PM
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