Liang Jing, From ruling by rhetoric to ruling by secret police*
I was left rather shocked by the many stories in the current (21 January) issue of Nanfang Zhoumo [Southern Weekend] that reflect a prosperous China’s many long and short-term worries.
Coverage of the disaster in Haiti was accompanied not only by “Haiti’s sad history”, but also by stories of Chinese illegal immigrants to the US via Haiti, dubbed “human snakes.” The experiences of the Haitian people and Chinese illegal immigrants are thought-provoking and show how the man-made disasters of greed and evil are the real reasons bringing about a hell on earth.
An article entitled “Deconstructing the new social security reforms” tells readers that the delayed launch of these reforms, and complete lack of arrangements in place for the huge social security payments in future, have lit another huge time bomb.  An article headed “Looking into the ‘anti pornography and crime’ office” removes the veil from a mysterious institution, namely the centre of the “anti-pornography” storm – the CPC’s “Office of the ‘Anti-pornography and Crime’ Working Group.”  The article claims this institution will in future “affect more people’s daily lives.” For many years the Party was unconcerned about pornography circulating unimpeded in official circles; their sudden high degree of concern now about “yellow text messages” is naturally out of fear of cell phones being used to send political messages.
In this issue’s Rule of Law section, readers can read how forensic evidence, once known as the “king of evidence,” has become the “king of gossip.”  Due to constant intrusions by power, forensic evidence in China has lost any independence; forensic experts who fake evidence under the protection of power receive minor punishments; judicial impartiality no longer has a baseline to defend.
These vicissitudes of the rule of law in the PRC show Hong Kong people the grim prospects they face in upholding it. The Rule of Law section in this issue of Nanfang Zhoumo also reports a warning to the Chinese authorities issued by Andrew Li, outgoing Chief Justice of the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal, in his final public speech:  “It is critically important to the independence of the judiciary that the judicial appointment process should never be politicised.” The problem is, how much leeway will future political developments in the PRC be able to give Hong Kong’s judicial independence?
Another article in this issue, “Next step for the Central Discipline Inspection Commission,” reveals an important and ominous message with regard to developments in China’s political situation.  We learn of the unusual significance of the Fifth Plenary Session of the Central Discipline Inspection Commission, held two weeks ago. Professor Ye Duchu of the Central Party School is quoted as calling President Hu Jintao’s speech at the plenary session a “programmatic document.” As Professor Ye is of course aware, everyone sees Hu Jintao as a monarch of empty rhetoric, hence, in order bring out the difference of this speech of Hu’s from previous ones, he particularly added, “not every speech of Hu Jintao’s may be called a ‘programmatic document’.”What then was the special significance this “programmatic document” of Hu’s? The full text wasn’t to be found online, but the speech indeed proved to be different to his previous empty rhetoric. It turns out that Hu issued an order to punish corrupt officials, and made it clear that this time he wasn’t merely sounding off, but “really meant it.” To convince high-ranking officials and people he would do as he said, Hu went out of his way to announce the crimes of two senior provincial and ministerial level prior to the meeting.It’s not difficult to foresee more high-ranking officials being punished this year, but that won’t convince anyone that Hu can solve the problem of ubiquitous corruption of high officials in the Party. What then could have been the ulterior motive of the “programmatic document” Hu delivered at the CDIC plenary session?“Next step for the Central Discipline Inspection Commission” offers a tactful interpretation. The real intention of Hu Jintao’s speech at the CDIC plenary was, we learn, not in fact to “oppose corruption and boost clean government,” but rather to “ensure government decrees are not impeded,” that is, solve a problem that Hu has failed to solve for eight years, of “decrees not making it out of Zhongnanhai.” This implied a major turning point in Hu’s approach to rule, hence Professor Ye’s statement that it was a “programmatic document” wasn’t surprising Translating the implications of the Nanfang Zhoumo article into the broad vernacular, it means that Hu Jintao will in future rely on the CDIC, a contemporary “Dongchang,” [domestic spy force organised by eunuchs in the Ming Dynasty] to ensure his own government decrees are not impeded, and maintain his authority. This turning point has multiple meanings. First of all, Hu has now wrested control of the CDIC from Jiang Zemin. Secondly, the CDIC has changed from being a tool for contention for power by the Jiang and Hu factions as in the past, and developed as the prime tool for Hu Jintao’s Party rule, and will comprehensively supervise and intervene in government administration; and third Hu Jintao has realised that he can’t carry on ruling by empty rhetoric to the end of his term, and believes that only by applying naked secret police methods can he reign in the high Party officials and prevent collapse of the whole system.
This turning point, with the mediocre and incompetent Hu Jintao finally switching from ruling by empty rhetoric to ruling through a “Dongchang,” comes as no surprise, but may have serious consequences. What is still unclear is whether this transition is entirely his own self-protective act of desperation, or a self-protective move by the Party to gain the collective support of a new generation of successors. Reliance on ruling through a secret police force saved neither the Ming nor the Chiang dynasties, nor can it of course save the CCP dictatorship, but this despicable type of rule may, like Dr Duvalier’s in Haiti, leave a calamity-ridden nation a bane that will be difficult to remove.
* Liang Jing, “Cong konghua zhiguo dao ‘dongchang’ zhiguo” [From ruling by rhetoric to ruling by secret police], Xin shiji, 26 January 2010 [梁京： “从空话治国到‘东厂’治国”， 新世纪，2010年1月 26日 (here).].
 Hu Ben, “Chaijie shebao xin gaige” [Deconstructing the new social security reform], Nanfang zhoumo, 21 January 2010 [胡贲：“拆解社保新改革”，南方周末，2010年1月 26日 (here).].
 Shen Liang, “Tanmi ‘saohuang dafei’ ban” [Looking into the ‘anti pornography and crime’ office], Nanfang zhoumo, 26 January 2010 [沈亮： “探秘‘扫黄打非’办”， 南方周末，2010年1月 26日 (here).].
 Chai Huiqun, “Cong ‘zhengju zhi wang’ dao ‘shifei’ zhi wang’” [From ‘king of evidence’ to ‘king of gossip’ ], Nanfang zhoumo, 21 January 2010 [柴会群： “从‘证据之王’到‘是非之王’”， 南方周末，2010年1月 21日 (here).].
 Wang Zhiguo, “Zhongjiwei quanhui fachu fanfu xin haoling: wuge yanban zai pao fanfu fengbao” [CDIC plenary session issues new anti-corruption orders: five severe measures anti-corruption storm ], Renmin wang, 19 January 2010 [王治国： “中纪委全会发出反腐新号令:五个严办再掀反腐风暴”， 人民网，2010年1月 19日 (here).].
 Zhao Lei, “Zuoyanqixing, yi bao fazhi yili budao” [No sooner said than done, stand towering to uphold the rule of law], Nanfang zhoumo, 21 January 2010 [赵蕾：“坐言起行,以保法治屹立不倒”，南方周末，2010年1月21日 (here).].
 Ma Changbo, “Zhongjiwei xia yibu” [Next step for the Central Discipline and Inspection Commission], Nanfang zhoumo, 21 January 2010 [马昌博：“中纪委下一步”，南方周末，2010年1月21日 (here).].
 Kang Nanai, “[Duowei yuekan]: Shiba da hexin kawei zhan, Ma Wen huzhiyuchu” [Duowei Monthly: Ma Wen clear that 18th National Party Conference core is blocking war (1)], , 26 January 2010 [康南海： “《多維月刊》：十八大核心卡位戰，馬馼呼之欲出”， ，2010年1月 26日 (here).].
Image source: Amnesty International