Yu Jianrong: Maintaining a Baseline of Social Stability (Part I )

Speech before the Beijing Lawyers Association, translated by CDT:

Author: Yu Jianrong
Source: NewSMTH.Net
Date posted by source: February 17, 2010
Date posted by this website: February 20, 2010, 7:50 PM
Number of hits: 13,033

Time: December 26, 2009
Location: Beijing Ministry of Finance, Assembly Hall

Host: Hello, everybody. In recent years because society’s resources have been allocated in an irrational manner, because of inequities in income distribution, because of the wide gap and the polarization between rich and poor, and because of a flood of corruption, etc., contradictions within society have been aggravated, conflicts have intensified, and an anti-government, anti-rich mindset has become a serious problem. Mass incidents are sparked now and then by invasions of citizens’ basic rights, such as environmental pollution, land confiscation, building demolition, business restructuring, illegal administrative acts, and unfair judicial decisions. Unfortunate incidents occurring on a large scale are happening more and more often, such as the Weng’an incident* and the Gansu Longnan incident**. These incidents have affected national security and social stability. Lawyers have also undertaken representation for many legal issues related to mass incidents. So currently, what are the characteristics of mass incidents in our nation? How should lawyers handle these mass incident cases? What issues does one have to pay attention to in the process of handling these mass incident cases? How does one protect oneself and avoid legal danger? Today we are very honored to invite Professor Yu Jianrong to give a speech entitled “Social Conflict and the Constructive Role of Lawyers.” Everyone, please welcome Professor Yu!

Professor Yu holds a Ph.D. in law. He is currently chairman of the Social Issues Research Center of the Rural Development Institute of the China Academy of Social Sciences and is also simply a professor. Professor Yu’s main works include Politics at the Lower Levels, The Situation of China’s Working Class, Organized Peasant Resistance in Contemporary China and Criticism of China’s Reeducation Through Labor System. For many years, Professor Yu has devoted himself to researching social problems and has a very deep knowledge. Today he will center his remarks on the characteristics of, and countermeasures towards, our nation’s mass incidents and will share with everyone his findings and opinions. I believe that Professor Yu’s speech will certainly be very enlightening to everybody, will evoke deep thought, and will benefit everyone by providing a fresh perspective. Let’s welcome Professor Yu’s lesson with warm applause!
Yu Jianrong: Good morning everyone! I’ve actually been a lawyer since 1987 and have practiced for eight years. Now I am working at the Rural Development Institute of the Academy of Social Sciences so I do not practice law any more. The topic that I am speaking about today is “Defending a Baseline of Social Stability.” Actually, I originally wanted to title my lecture “Let the Constitution Become the Baseline for Social Stability.” Why did I want to speak on this topic? It is because I wanted to give a simple response to the following questions: what has actually occurred in China’s society, what is yet to occur, and what is it that we can do.

China’s society has entered a period of frequent contradictions and conflicts. Where is China headed? This is a very controversial question. For a long time there was one most basic view about China’s society, which is that China’s society would experience great social upheaval. At the beginning of this year [2009], everyone was discussing this view more than usual. They, including Mr. Wufan and also some of the British and foreign mainstream media, thought that during and after the year 2009, there would be social upheaval. At the beginning of the year I published an article in Caijing in which I gave my view that while China’s society would experience many problems, as a whole it would be stable and there would not be social upheaval in 2009. This is to say that while there exists a possibility of social upheaval, because of the rigid and stable structure of Chinese society, social upheaval is still some ways away from actually occurring.

However, I recently visited a retired group of Chinese ministry level cadres. Among them was a person who was formerly a core member of a core advisory ministry to the central government. He had this to say: “You think that China’s society will not experience upheaval. I think that it will definitely experience upheaval, and that the time is not too far distant.” I also visited some important leading cadres who are still in office; they also had the same conclusion—upheaval in China’s society is unavoidable. Will this really be the case? Personally, I feel more and more unsure. So when Wei Dazhong, Esq. and Wei Rujiu, Esq. invited me to come here and exchange ideas with everybody, to tell the truth, I felt a little unsure about whether I was up to the task. I have discussed this problem domestically and abroad for one year. I have discussed this problem before party and government institutions in places throughout the nation and before the Party School of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China. I have never felt so much as I do today that I was not up to the task. Why is this? It is because after I visited these people, their judgment has influenced my opinion. I have been wondering why they think that China will definitely experience upheaval. What should be done about it? Two days ago a group of lawyers came to my house and we discussed this problem: supposing that some of the most prominent elite all think that China will experience upheaval, then what should we, in the legal profession, do about it? Our conclusion at that time was that the Constitution should be the baseline for maintaining social stability in China. Therefore, at the last minute today I changed my topic to “Defending a Baseline of Social Stability” so that I could discuss with everybody what problems have occurred in China, why one should search for a baseline of social stability, and what exactly this baseline should be.

As a matter of fact, at the beginning of the year, central government leaders also thought that 2009 would be a tough year. Although today is the 26th [of December] and in four days this year will be over, more and more signs indicate that that the current situation is more and more tense, and more and more serious. The most obvious and direct manifestation of this social situation is the number of mass incidents. In actual fact, from 1993 to 2006 the number of mass incidents increased from 8,709 to 90,000. The number of mass incidents in the years 2007, 2008 and the current year all exceeded 90,000.

What is key is the increase in especially large mass incidents. This increase is truly shaking the view the rulers have of the nation. On the surface, we have great buildings being constructed, great highways being opened up, and everyone has this feeling of orioles singing and swallows darting [a feeling of great prosperity]; however, in actuality, these things [large mass incidents] are shaking the view the rulers have about the future of China.

I first want to discuss with everybody what it is that has happened in China. These last few years I have made a simple categorization of China’s mass incidents. They can be roughly sorted into three main categories: defending rights, venting, and rabble-rousing. Furthermore, the “defending rights” category can be subdivided into three parts; rural farmers’*** rights defense, laborers’ rights defense, and urban residents’ rights defense.

I am first going to lay special emphasis on analyzing what has happened among laborers, rural farmers and urban dwellers in relation to rights defense activities and will provide a simple overview of the characteristics of each subcategory.

(To be continued)

* “The Weng’an Incident was a riot on June 28, 2008 involving tens of thousands of residents in Weng’an County, Qiannan Buyei and Miao Autonomous Prefecture, in Guizhou province of Southwest China. Rioters smashed government buildings and torched several police cars to protest against an alleged police cover-up of a girl’s death.” (from Wikipedia)

** The Longnan Incident refers to riots in Gansu province that started on November 17, 2008 when around thirty people whose houses had been demolished petitioned the government. The riots involved thousands of people and caused the injuries of over seventy police officers and three journalists. (See here, and here (Chinese))

*** The original word, 农民 (nongmin) in Chinese, is also commonly translated as “peasants.”


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