“Citizens Looking to Protect Their Rights Will Simply Never Win”

This week saw the arrest of a local official in Guizhou who seemed likely to shrug off a rape accusation until the case caught the attention of Sina Weibo users. At Caixin, Shanghai-based lawyer Ding Jinkun recounts a similar case, also in Guizhou.

The daughter of a former vice mayor accused a wealthy local businessman and Party member of rape. After pursuing the case unsuccessfully for two years, the father, Tian Wanchang, resorted to petitioning in Beijing. Consequently, the man once responsible for “maintaining social stability” in his city has been labelled an “unstable factor” by local authorities. Ding launches a ferocious attack on the social ills the episode reflects:

A case like this cuts to the core of Chinese society, and the picture it paints is not flattering. It is a picture of jungle warfare, of a primitive world where power, force, is the only law. It is only because, in this case, the two sides happen to be more evenly matched – officialdom versus wealth – that anyone even knows that this case exists. Imagine a similar case involving the wealthy on one side and an ordinary citizen on the other – is there even any doubt that the case would never see the light of day? The injustice would certainly remain buried forever, regardless of the truth or the severity of the crime.

In this case, we have in Mr. Tian an official once in charge of maintaining social stability who, over the course of his career, doubtlessly clamped down on many who had been labeled disturbers of the peace. And now, following a bitter turn of events, he himself has been labeled one of those “unstable factors” threatening the very society he worked for years to maintain order in. More ironic still, despite his years of service to the state he is now unable to seek legal recourse for his own daughter. How is a father, how is anyone, expected to stomach a travesty of this magnitude?

Local business tycoons are in cahoots with the local authorities to a stupefying degree. The moneyed class is in fact so ingratiated with local government that the wealthy have become the de factor political rulers. What has emerged is a despotism where citizens are sacrificed on the altar of the powerful, where legal rulings are constantly harming the people they are meant to help. Citizens looking to protect their rights will simply never win versus officials or versus the rich. Their only choice is to perish together, pitiable and powerless.