On China Media Project, David Bandurski writes about how local county officials use their unrestrained power to bring "defamation" claims against their critics:
While counties are beyond the gravitational pull of the center in Beijing, and sufficiently far from provincial centers of power, their leaders have comprehensive sets of public tools at their disposal -- the police, courts, prosecutors.
Counties are therefore the most comprehensive manifestation of government power to interface directly with ordinary citizens. And as rights consciousness grows among ordinary Chinese, and social problems loom, this becomes a national recipe for personal disaster like that which faced Liaoning businesswoman Zhao Junping.
...These tensions are clearly visible in the surge of "defamation" cases that have emerged recently from county governments across China. And these cases are just the tip of the iceberg, freak instances where information about local wrongdoing trickled up and out to national media. [Full text]
Read also ESWN's translation of a Southern Metropolis Daily article and "Petty officials with grand delusions" from Asia Times, about the recent defamation case by Liaoning officials against journalist Zhu Wenna.