Wang Xiangwei: Mainland official hails bloody riots as a sign of democracy

From the South China Morning Post (registration requuired): Vice-minister says protests inevitable as country undergoes huge changes.

Violent protests by the mainland’s farmers are inevitable due to the country’s enormous social and economic changes, according to a top central government official in charge of agricultural policy. Chen Xiwen also hailed farmers’ willingness to speak up against injustice as a sign of democracy.

While stressing that he did not approve of using violence, the recent spate of protests demonstrated that farmers now knew how to protect their rights and interests, said Mr Chen, vice-minister of the Office of the Central Leading Group on Financial and Economic Affairs.

“On the one hand, riots like the one in Dongyang are a tragedy and show that local authorities failed to do a proper job,” Mr Chen said. “But on the other hand, they show that our farmers know to protect their rights, which is a good thing. “It shows farmers’ democratic awareness is improving, but unfortunately their sense of law and order has not improved as quickly.”

Mr Chen, who has studied mainland agricultural issues for more than 20 years, is the key official credited with drafting a series of central government documents in the past two years that have helped reduce farmers’ tax burden and allocated more funds to boost agricultural production. Uncharacteristic of officials’ usual aversion to sensitive issues, Mr Chen is ready to admit the problems and discuss policy from a unique perspective. Referring to several damning reports on the plight o farmers that have attracted international attention in recent years, he said more protests had gone unreported.

…… Mr Chen hailed the role of the media and internet in reporting the riots, which he said enabled the higher authorities to act quickly. “Now, thanks to the internet, any incident will quickly come to the attention of the highest level of mainland leadership. In the past, they could easily be covered up by local officials,” he said. He said as China was going through a critical stage of reform, the interests of certain groups like farmers could be easily hurt.

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Chen Xiwen’s writing about rural development in Chinese, from China.org.cn.

July 4, 2005 7:30 AM
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Categories: CDT Highlights, Law, Society