Xinhua: Improving Our Ability to React to Mass Incidents (2/2)

The following article is from Xinhuanet.com. Translated by E. Shih. This is Part II. Part I is here.

如何把握群体性事件的处理分寸
黄豁:前几年,地方政府对群体性事件普遍表现出“不适应症”,判断失误、处置失当的例子比比皆是。但从近期的群体性事件来看,地方政府处置水平比过去有所提高,无论是处置思路、处置方式都有一定变化,体现了一定的“学习能力”。

How can we find the boundaries of propriety in managing mass incidents?

Huang Huo: In the past few years, a contagion of “maladjustment” to mass incidents has been plaguing local governments. Examples of bad judgment and inappropriate handling are ubiquitous. Yet recently, local government’s standards for handling problems have improved with regards to mass incidents. Whether it’s the rationale behind the handling of the problem or the methods themselves, there has been a certain amount of change, demonstrating an “aptitude for learning.”

比如,在信息公开和引导舆论方面,政府过去都是保持沉默,导致流言、小道消息满天飞,现在无论是“瓮安事件”,还是“云南孟连事件”,地方党委政府都较快地发布了信息,传递了自己的声音。此外,像对“重庆出租车罢运事件”的处置,为信息时代地方政府处理重大民生问题和突发事件提供了有益借鉴。

For example, on the level of open access to information and guidance of public opinion, the government had always remained silent in the past. This led to the propagation of rumors and false news. Now, the local governments distribute information much more quickly, transmitting their own voice, as in the “Weng’an Incident” and the “Yunnan Menglian Incident.” Moreover, these local governments have gained valuable references on civilian livelihood and conflict from the handling of such cases as the “Chongqing Taxi Driver Strike” through the information age.

虽然有一定进步,一些地方在处置群体性事件中的失败教训还是很多。最突出的教训就是地方政府部门没有摆正自己的位置,在市场经济的利益博弈中严守“政府中立”原则,反而把自己和强势利益集团捆绑在一起,“执政为民”的宗旨被异化为“为老板服务”和“为资本服务”,在处置群体性事件中动辄用高压手段对付老百姓。“云南孟连事件”就是典型。

Although they have improved to a certain extent, some localities are still learning many lessons in how not to handle mass incidents. The lesson that stands out is that of local governments have not fully understood their duties, and have not held strictly to a principle of “unbiased government” in the midst of market capitalist struggle. On the contrary, they bound themselves to powerful interest groups. They transformed the motto of “ruling for the people” into “serving the boss” and “serving capital.” They then went as far as to use heavy-handed measures against civilians during the mass incidents. The “Yunnan Menglian Incident” is a classic case.

还有一个教训就是一定要让干部敢于讲真话,敢于面对矛盾,这需要建立与之相适应的干部考评机制。

中央坦承现在是“矛盾凸显期”,但具体落实到实际工作中,不少地方又苛求基层“不能出事”,不发生群体事件,无大规模上访,无人进京上访就叫“稳定”,评价干部能力和政绩也以此为重要指标。所以,基层谁都不敢主动向上暴露问题、讲真话,拼命把负面消息压住,采取各种办法把上访的人拦住,事情闹大了才向上级报告。

Another lesson involves cadres being willing to speak the truth and to face contradictions. This requires a systematic acculturation and evaluation of cadres.

The central government has admitted that this is a “period of outstanding contradictions;” but on the way from implementation to concrete acts of execution, many local governments also ask the lower levels to “remain incident free” and to avoid mass incidents. Having no appeals to high-level authorities, no one travelling to Beijing to make demands: this is called “stability.” It has also become an important measure of the cadre’s performance and promotion record. Because of this, the lower level officials do not dare reveal problems to their superiors or speak the truth. Instead, they do all in their power to suppress negative information and move mountains to obstruct those who would make appeals to the central government. Only when the problem becomes too big do they report to their superiors.

“稳定”如果变成了一种“社会控制”,在实际操作中就成了“搞定就是稳定,摆平就是水平,无事就是本事,妥协就是和谐”。这必然导致群体性事件“小事拖大,大事拖炸”。

If “stability” becomes a kind of “social control,” then in terms of practical execution it becomes a matter of: “keeping things under control is stability, pacification is ability, having no incidents is real skill, and compromise is harmony.” This naturally causes mass incidents to follow the expansive pattern of “small to big, big to explosive.”

钟玉明:地方政府要特别注意避免采取“饮鸩止渴处置法”:只要能快速平息,要钱给钱,要人放人;法律条文、法律程序,一概抛到九霄云外。这样的结果,使平息群体性事件成了“反法制建设”活教材。

当前,对于处置群体性事件,在一些地方有一个默认的“成功标准”:快速让群众散去。至于手段是否合法,对今后社会管理造成什么影响,甚少探究。

Zhong Yuming: Local governments need to be particularly careful to avoid “drinking poison to quench thirst”: In other words, in the name of quickly achieving peace, they will pay off whoever needs to be paid off and release whomever it is demanded they release. The letter and procedure of the law are thrown to the four winds. This results in the amelioration process of mass incidents turning into “anti-legalization precedents.”

Currently, there is a tacit “gold standard” for some local governments dealing with mass incidents: to disperse the crowds as quickly as possible. They do not query too deeply into the issue of whether or not the methods are legal, or what effects they might have on social management thereafter.

为了快速“止渴”,一些地方处置群体事件不遵循法律程序,以提高时效。在这样的诱导下,群众越发“讲理”不“讲法”——只要我利益受损了,我“有理”了,怎样闹都行,政府都要立即满足。

政府满足群众诉求的速度越来越快,公众心理反而越来越急躁,抱定一种“立等可取”的心态。人们担心,一旦聚集人群散去,一旦媒体关注点转移,政府就会撒手不管。乃至像出租车管理体制改革、打击黑车等涉及巨大人力物力投入的改革,也要求立即见效。一些医疗事故引发群体性事件,案件解决有其客观制约,有时候一个检验就需要半个月时间,但媒体往往会以“事件已经过去四天,案件依然没有进展”来表示不满。

In order to “quench their thirst” quickly, some local governments do not follow legal procedures in dealing with mass incidents in the name of efficiency.

With this kind of temptation, the crowds are more likely to “follow justification” instead of “following the law”: if my interests have suffered, then I have “justification” and I am allowed to create havoc as I please. The government must immediately satisfy my demands.

The more quickly the government satisfies mass demands, the more irritable the public psychology becomes. It becomes a mentality of expecting near “instant gratification.” The people worry that as soon as the gathered crowd disperses and the media attention moves to its next target, the government will simply become indifferent. Even matters such as the reform of rules concerning taxis and a crackdown on illegal cars, matters that require a colossal investment of human and material resources, there is an expectation for immediate effectiveness. When certain medical accidents set off a mass incident, there are objective limitations to the method of solving of the case. Sometimes exams take half a month to run; but the media will often express dissatisfaction with words such as: “It’s been four days since the incident occurred, and the case has still had no developments.”

为了快速“止渴”,“阔政府”花钱买平安,给“穷政府”和企业提出难题,给其他地方制造了难题。比如东莞樟木头镇合俊玩具厂倒闭,老板逃匿。当地政府立即承诺垫付工人全部工资。工人满意之余,立即又要求远大于欠薪的种种补偿。樟木头痛快出钱,媒体大肆报道。此前,合俊玩具厂在广东山区设立了分厂,此时一同倒闭,东莞“榜样”摆在工人眼前,山区政府却不如东莞这样财雄势大,愁坏了。

为了快速“止渴”,对群体性事件中使用暴力、触犯国家相关法律的,有的地方也睁一只眼闭一只眼。国务院《信访条例》失灵。“推选五个代表人”的条款被漠视。一些地方公安部门拘押部分使用暴力的当事人,而群众立即把“放人”追加为“诉求”,坚持“不放人绝不走”。于是,一些地方公安部门为了避免“不好下台 ”,连现场抓捕暴力分子都缩手缩脚。像有关征地纠纷,有些人阻挠施工、打砸设备、攻击政府工作人员或施工人员,都很少听说受到法律制裁。

In order to quickly “quench the thirst,” the “rich governments” spend money to buy the peace, forcing “poor governments” and enterprises to face difficulties. For example, when the Hejun toy factory in Zhangmutou township, Dongguan closed down, the boss ran away. The local government immediately promised to step up and pay the entirety of the workers’ salary. The workers were extremely satisfied, and immediately demanded compensation beyond the owed salary. Zhangmutou happily paid, and the media reported on it shamelessly. Before this, the Hejun toy factory had built a second factory in the Guangdongshan zone, and it also closed down. While the “example” of Dongguan sat before the workers’ eyes, the Shan zone government was not as well-endowed as Dongguan and was filled with worry. In order to “quench the thirst” quickly, they use violence against mass incidents, and some locales turn a blind eye to violations of relevant national laws. The state departments’s “Letters and Visits Decree” has lost legitimacy. The stipulation of “recommending five representatives” has been ignored. Some local police departments would detain a number of the violent participants, and the crowd would immediately add “release the prisoners!” to its “demands,” declaring that “we won’t leave until you release the prisoners!” As a result, in order to avoid “not having a good exit,” the police departments are hesitant even in the matter of detaining violent actors. In disputes over state-expropriated land, some people obstruct construction and destroy equipment, or attack government and construction workers. We don’t hear often of these people being subjected to the law.