The Chinese internet is up in arms over the story of riots in Guizhou province over the weekend. For the most comprehensive news we know so far, I refer you to ESWN’s very detailed coverage. There’s nothing I have to add.
Roland at ESWN mentions that an article at Xinhua forum (连接) has been left open to netizen discussion, in contrast to much tighter standards at Tianya and MaoYan. It’s also interesting to note that the Strong Country forum (连接) run by the People’s Daily has also been running very loose standards, if any. See attached snapshot showing the most frequent discussions on Strong Country, many of which refer to Weng’An by name. (If you click into a post, a side-bar showing the most current posts are almost entirely all about Weng’An.)
Popular threads on Strong Country right now include:
- Guizhou Province Weng’An Prefecture Has Hitting/Smashing/Burning Incident (连接)
- I support the people of Guizhou – Weng’An (连接)
These threads are being kept open, even though the vast majority of the opinions in these articles are highly critical of the government in Guizhou. Many also criticize the Xinhua release, and its very opinionated language on “masses who don’t know the truth”. Roland at ESWN commented on this as being surprising, and I agree. Is this a new trend, or just an accident?
President Hu Jintao made a very public visit to sit-in on an internet discussion Strong Country a few weeks ago, in which he also talked about reading the Internet regularly; it was head-line news on numerous sites for days. Is it possible that this is his administration’s attempt to bring netizens “closer”? That the best way for “harmony” and to show a commitment for reform, is to make the party’s propaganda arm the most popular place for online dissent?
Let me also quote from one such post (愿贴) on Strong Country, which bypasses the specific incident (which we know so little of so far), and poses a question about the system at large:
I am not clear on the causes for the incident, but this post isn’t about the “incident” itself, but more about the handling of what follows the “incident”: Guizhou Weng-an incident —- it’s not just a “public security incident”, but touches upon questions of fairness in the legal system, as well as judicial jurisdiction.
Since this incident involves the public security ministry, then it should be the institutions responsible for supervising the public security system (for example: the Congress, Procuratorate (prosecutors), Lawyer Association) sending people to investigate the system. It shouldn’t be the provincial Communist Party standing committee, the politburo’s secretary, and the public security division head stepping out to resolve the issue. I don’t mean to cast doubt that the public security division head will “hide shortcomings”, but objectively speaking, shouldn’t we give average people confidence in the system — handle this issue by bringing in a third party.
Build a legal system that treats “the people as the base”, and respect citizen rights; and not a legal system in which “officials manage people”. The problem of who Guizhou’s provincial party committee and government sends to handle this problem also legally requires thinking about recusal for those with a conflict of interest.
The waves being raised by the deaths of a female high school student or university incident, these are not isolated incidents in our country. And they all involve government officials or others with government links are the “strong forces”. On the other side, average citizens and the families of the victims are the “weak forces”, trying to press a legal claim against a government official. At the very least, from a system point of view, shouldn’t there be a third-party handling this – just like when neighbors have a dispute, they can look for someone with wisdom and insight to render a judgment.
Most Chinese simply have very little confidence in China’s modern legal system, and this has built up over years and years of disappointing history. Until there’s a series of open trials in which the legal system can prove itself an independent force capable of limiting the government’s power, popular dissatisfaction and discontent will continue to build.