From Taishi village to Dongzhou – a step into danger (by Liang Jing, translated by David Kelly)
The events at Taishi village taking place between summer and autumn this year were an attempt by Guangdong peasants to use the law as a weapon, a signal event in people using peaceful methods to defend their land rights and interests. This incident drew sympathy from media at home and abroad, and those who support the defence of peasant rights paid serious attention, as this was a major matter involving justice and rule of law. Moreover, the political targets under attack were in the first place local power and influence groups, not Hu and Wen.
Since the administration of Jiang Zemin and Zhu Rongji, local power and influence groups have not only taken advantage of a current land system which is extremely unfair to the peasants to deprive them of their rights and interests, but have as well extensively used methods, illegal even in the PRC, to abuse the peasantry in order to enrich themselves. Hence, if Hu and Wen sincerely want to realize equity and the rule of law, they must inevitably come into conflict with these groups. This has led many people, Taishi villagers among them, to see the incident as giving Hu and Wen an opportunity to they use their political authority to support everything being done according to legal process, and thus achieve the effect of both supporting the peasants’ rights defence and advancing the rule of law.
It seems now that this idea was too naive. The local power and influence groups, together with the central power and influence special interest groups in close collusion with them, were extremely clear: if the Taishi village peasants were to win, there could be a domino effect, fundamentally threatening their vested interests. What political pressure the regional and central mafias directly exerted on Hu regarding the Taishi village incidents we have no way of knowing. But one point is quite clear: the power and influence groups tolerate local mafias blatantly trampling the law, persecuting the peasants defending their rights and the public figures who support them, while Hu and Wen turned a blind eye to them. Thus, Hu and Wen take a great stride towards a new social upheaval. Their are clearly appeasement of the local mafias, allows the local power and influence groups to become even more ruthless. Thus regardless of whether Hu and Wen participated directly in the Dongzhou bloodbath case, they can hardly be absolved.
Hu Jintao evidently realized that if he did not place pressure on the regional mafias, the sound of gunfire might quickly break out all round the country, and be beyond recall. He therefore directed a shut-down regarding the situation regarding the shooting of the Dongzhou villagers. But, how was the resistance to their defence of their rights to be conveyed to the world? After several days of silence, Hu finally decided to support the local power and influence groups, defame the peasants defending their rights, and slander the resisting disadvantaged as rioters. Hu Jintao has poured a basin of cold water on the land-losing peasants who are fighting to defend their rights all around the PRC, and has taken a yet more dangerous step towards social upheaval.
From Taishi village to Dongzhou bloodbath, people are clearer than ever, the mainland political crisis is much more serious than many realised. Like China’s rulers of old, Hu Jintao is wedged between powerful local bullies and outraged dispossessed common people; the local power and influence groups have made both emperor and common people into their hostages. To deal with the common people, local power and influence groups and special interest groups cling to imperial authority, they manipulate the state apparatus to wantonly plunder the populace on the pretext that “stability overrides all other considerations”; to deal with the emperor they shield their rapacity on the grounds that if they don’t raise the common people’s livelihood the latter will revolt. Although well aware in his mind of the games of the local mafias, Hu Jintao in fact has no alternative. Weighing up the two evils, he is more afraid of peasant revolts.
But China’s history repeatedly shows that the final result of appeasing the inflation of regional mafias, is when officials oppression leading to popular revolt on a larger scale, is to see all sides consumed in a duet of tyranny and revolt, and the dynastic cycle where violence leads to more of the same. Is this China’s fate? Many people are pondering this at present, hoping that China can find a way to avoid it. In this sense, the overwhelming majority of Chinese hope Hu Jintao will halt in his moves in the direction of danger.
The Taishi village incident and the Dongzhou bloodbath on the one hand reflect 100 million peasants’ fervent demands for an end to China’s present land system, while at the same time the regional power and interest groups crazed resistance to peasants’ defence of their rights also tangentially shows, the present political and land systems are alike in being basically unable to support the interests of all quarters achieving compromise and balance in a framework of rule of law. Hence, it is not only unworkable but radically hypocritical for the central authorities in the PRC not to initiate institute reform of these systems themselves, but merely stress respect for legal process under the existing system.
The Taishi Village and Dongzhou bloodbath events not only raise the question of whether Hu Jintao can see this point: there is a more incisive question, that is, whether he has the ability to initiate such fundamental reforms. In other words can the PRC’s present regime support them?
While the collective gaze of the world is trained on how the Chinese authorities handle the Dongzhou bloodbath, Hu Jintao calmly initiates a movement to “convey kind feelings” as if nothing at all was the matter, instructing those officials who have occupied their fill of the farmer’s interests to realize his ideal of a “harmonious society” by hypocritically “conveying kind feelings” to the poor people whom they have robbed. Can he genuinely fail to grasp that for such a political show, fresh from conveying bullets, to shamelessly turn around and “convey kind feelings” will only make the world at large see China’s leaders in the cold light of day?