24 Hours at the Public Hearings Over Mobile Phone Roaming Charges
Hao Jingsong is a law student at the China University of Politics and Law. He’s challenging the legal system by taking on some well-known controversial cases, including the South China Tiger case. He was the first to announce he would bring a lawsuit against Farmer Zhou, the provider of the tiger photos. Public hearings are quite a new thing in China. Mobile phone roaming charges are apparently a big enough deal to be on the national censor’s list. The following is from Tianya Community, translated by CDT:
On the evening of January 21, Beijing Legal Evening News reported that on January 22 the public hearings for mobile phone roaming charges would be held in the Henan Building. Then the National Development and Reform (NDRC) tried to block information of the exact location and time of the hearings from the media.
I called the front desk of the Henan Building. The operator said all rooms were taken. The Henan Building is owned by Henan Province. I called up my friend working at the Beijing office of Henan Province and asked for a room reservation at the Henan Building. Five minutes later, my friend phoned me and said it’s all set, room No. 2015.
At 11:00 pm that night, I stayed in the Henan Building at No. 28 Huaweili, Panjiayuan Beijing.
At 8:00 am on the 22nd, my assistant arrived with camera equipments. At 8:20am, China Radio International interviewed me by phone for 10 minutes. Then after breakfast, my assistant and I went to the first floor. In the lobby, about 30 reporters were there. Two of us walked out of the building to shoot footage of the road. Then, a girl followed me closely and asked, “Aren’t you Hao Jingsong?” I answered yes. Soon, seven or eight reporters surrounded me. My assistant was shooting a scene of the Henan Building. Reporters raised their cameras to take pictures, too. Some reporters suggested shooting inside the lobby since there were hearings billboards. We returned to the hall. I stood next to the billboard, took out and raised a printed banner, “Public Hearings” in my left hand, then raised a black vase in my right hand. Reporters started to photograph me. A reporter asked, “is this your protest against the public hearings”? I said, “No. This is my creation of Acts of Art, named ‘Black Vase and the Hearings’. Black stands for a hidden, secret, not open, black-box operation.” Several reporters questioned me in turn. I responded one by one. After half an hour, some other reporters went with me to my room for interviews.
At 10:30 am, my assistant and I took the elevator to the 4th floor, where the hearing was to be held in the conference room. Some reporters were waiting. Two security guys stopped all of us.
At 12:00 pm the pre-meeting of the hearings ended, and the representatives streamed out to the the restaurant on the second floor for lunch. Two of us followed them there. At the door we were blocked by a tall man. I told him that I was staying in the Henan Building, and just wanted to have lunch, so I asked him to let me in.
The men said, “We have booked the entire restaurant.”
I asked him, “What is your Danwei?”
He replied, “ The National Development and Reform Commission.”
We went to another restaurant nearby. An hour later a TV reporter called me for an interview and said he was at the door of my room. After returning to my room, we arranged the furniture, set the camera and started the interview. Thirty minutes later we finished.
At 17:40 pm, I arrived on the 4th Floor with my assistant. The hearings had just ended. After a depressing, long day, 70 or so reporters flowed into the conference room. One reporter complained, “these guys treated us like entertainment reporters.”
We got in. The hall was about 300 square meters. We took a good position and my assistant set the camera at the third row. I saw there were eight video cameras in the first front rows. I counted there are another seven rows behind me. Each row had 25 seats, thus a total of 150 seats. At the front there were about 50 seats at the podium.
I was prepared to ask questions. I asked my assistants to go back to my room to take the written reply from the NDRC to my public letter. Five minutes later he came back and told me in the elevator he bumped into three representatives with cards hanging around the necks. One representative said, “Let’s go for dinner, afterward we’ll head for the press conference.” Another responded, “Yes, dinner first. Let them wait.”
We waited for a full 40 minutes. At 6:30pm, three representatives showed up silently. After they were seated, they announced their own names: Cao Changqing, the Secretary of NDRC ; Xu Kunlin, the Deputy Director of the Division of the NDRC; Wang Tiefu, the Secretary of the Ministry of Information Industry.
After a brief introduction, reporters began to ask questions. I raised my hand many times, but the three officials pretended not to see me. Then the clock said 6:55 pm, and Cao Changqiang said this is the last question. A female reporter was called on.
I could not wait any longer and decided to take action and I notified my assistant. Cao Changqiang just finished answering the last question and was about to call the end of the hearings. The moment he opened his mouth, I jumped onto the chair. The three officials apparently did not foresee that there would be such a scene, their faces expressed shocked.
I raised the written letter of the NDRC in my hand, and started my speech, “Hello, Cao Changqiang Administrator! I am Hao Jingsong, a citizen of the People’s Republic of China. On January 4 this year, I wrote to the NDRC requsting attendance at the mobile phone roaming charges public hearings. On January 16, the NDRC gave me a written reply and said, ‘Due to limited seats and room you cannot attend the hearings.’ I have observed that the venue can accommodate 200 individuals and the actual hearing had fewer than 50 representatives. I think the NDRC was lying about the limited seats. Please give me an explanation.” Cao Changqiang maintained silence, while Xu Kunlin loudly said, “We are open for a press conference. You are not a journalist.” I replied, “I am a citizen and a journalist, too. The Internet is a platform for me to spread information!” Xu Kunlin angrily faced the security guard of the conference room and loudly demanded, “Is this how you guarded the door?! Anyone is allowed in?” Then, the three officials stood up and quickly left the venue.
That night, I left the Henan Building.
(Photo from Southern Metropolis Daily, shows Hao holding the “Public Hearings” sign and black vase.)
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