Category Archives: civil society

“Critical report pulled from China’s web”

Two days ago Tsinghua University released an annual report which strongly criticized the lack of political reform in China. Seeing such an important university do so in such strong language was good to see, and their conclusion stated that the following steps are vital to China’s future:

1. “[China must] move in the direction of the mainstream world civilization.” The report holds that the “mainstream world civilization” has as its core values “freedom, rationality, individual rights, market economics, democratic politics and rule of law.”

2. “Recreating social vitality through political reforms.” “Political reform and social construction (社会建设) offer the most practical impetus [means] of moving out of the transformation snare.” The report argues that resolving the problem of black case work (暗箱操作) [or behind the scenes dealing], and promoting the open operation of power, creating mechanisms to check power (制约权力的机制), can serve as the breakthrough points for political reform (政治体制改革的突破口). In recent years, the central party has already promoted open government information (政务信息公开).

3. Carrying out reforms in terms of top-level [institutional] design on the basis of public participation (民众参与). “In fact, one of the most important reasons that reforms have taken a malformed path in recent years is a lack of participation in reform by the masses. In the 1980s reforms were supported by the enthusiasm of an idealism [in society], and the defect of inadequate public participation was not yet so readily apparent. But once this idealism faded, interest [self-interest, the profit motive, etc.] became the chief factor driving reforms. Reform, in the absence of public participation, can quite easily become a large-scale dividing of the spoils (大规模的‘分赃’). Many clear examples of this could be seen in the restructuring of state-owned enterprises in the 1990s.”

4. Finally, the report advocates using “equity and justice” to form a consensus on [further] reforms. “What people feel most readily in the midst of the transformation snare is disaffection, that equity and justice have been destroyed. Therefore, re-coalescing a consensus on reform must be done by defining equity and justice and the most basic value and objective [of reform]. In this sense, the building of democracy and rule of law must be the core content of future reforms in China.”

The report concluded: “In an era like today, what China needs above all else is courage, the courage to face vested interests head on, to break through the fabric of vested interests and through the logic of the ‘transformation snare’, the courage to move beyond the present deadlock and morass.”

That translation came from CMP, which now reports that the paper has been pulled from the internet and disappeared:

The report, authored by sociology professor Sun Liping (孙立平), the former doctoral adviser to now vice-president and successor apparent Xi Jinping (习近平), argued that China was in the midst of a “transformation snare” (转型陷阱) in which the energy and impetus to push ahead with necessary reforms was being lost.

A lengthy summary of the Tsinghua University report was published in the January 9 edition of China Youth Daily, and was quickly posted to a number of major Chinese web portals, including People’s Daily Online. But within hours, links to the article were disabled.

By mid-day the link to the China Youth Daily version at People’s Daily Online called up a warning page that read: “The page you are looking for does not exist. You will be automatically re-directed to the People’s Daily Online homepage in 5 seconds.” A similar warning from the popular Netease web portal read: “We’re sorry, the page you are visiting does not exist or has already been deleted.”

For several hours, users on the popular social media platform Sina Weibo shared a link to a cached version of the China Youth Daily report at Baidu.com, as well as news that the article had been deleted from sites like Netease. By day’s end the Baidu version had been pulled down as well. The page now linked only to the electronic edition of China Youth Daily, where an unreadable image of the original newspaper page could be found but the text to the right only read: “This article has been deleted.”

If the Communist Party’s hold on power was really as secure as their apologists claim, would they need to delete something like this?

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Filed under censorship, civil society, Communist Party, political reform

“Scholar Warns Against Expanded State Power”

Caixin has a report about some lawyers who sound like they’re asking for an all-expenses paid trip to a black prison soon:

Speaking at a ceremony November 20 commemorating the life of legal scholar Cai Dingjian, China University of Political Science and Law Professor Jiang Ping said the expansion of both government and Communist Party authority is a dangerous sign of an inflexible, oppressive society.

Though Jiang did not clarify which developments pointed to expanded state power, he said Taiwan’s major political reforms in 1986 are a noteworthy example for how China should carry out reforms, while creating checks on the government. That year, Taiwan shifted its single-party system to a multi-party democracy, while also removing state controls over the press.

He also viewed the prioritization of “Stability Overrides Everything Else”—a Deng Xiaoping quote oft-repeated by officials in recent years to describe China’s economic and political direction—as going hand-in-hand with expanded state power. As long as political power is of the utmost importance to the Communist Party, he said, it will never implement real reform.

Another sociologist at the gathering, Tsinghua University Professor Li Dun, said reform in China has reached a standstill. It is a sign that the central government has too much power, he said, when there are all sorts of people who want to revert back to socialism, or to the Cultural Revolution times, and or who advocate militarism for the sake of unification.

“Today’s serious imbalance in power has resulted in a lack of common understanding between different parts of Chinese society,” the scholar said. “This is intertwined with the party’s control. China must establish a societal system based on human rights, democracy and equality.”

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Filed under activism, civil society, Communist Party, political reform

“Little Yueyue and China’s moral road”

Where to even start with this one… a few years ago, a man in Nanjing helped a senior citizen who had fallen over. He was then taken to court and blamed for her injuries, with the judge ruling that he must have been responsible, because why else would he help her out? This is one of those times where having a ludicrously terrible judicial system which only exists to serve the powerful and moneyed and can’t actually function in any other capacity comes back to bite you. Since then a slight nervousness about helping others has turned into an outright phobia- Chinese friends and students have told me on multiple occasions that I shouldn’t ever help anyone in distress, because I’ll end up taken to court and the Nanjing ruling will happen again.

It seems to have reached a head with the case of Yueyue, a child struck by a car who was then ignored by passersby, much to the outrage of the general public. A piece from Asia Times:

“What has happened to our morality?” “Where are our hearts of sympathy?” “How come we could ever become even more cruel and hard-hearted than cold-blooded animals?” These were questions being asked by outraged Chinese media and bloggers over a recent incident hit-and-run incident which saw bystanders indifferently walk past a toddler who was struck by a van, only for the child to be hit by a second vehicle.

The incident happened on October 13 in Foshan city in southern Guangdong, the richest province in China, and was captured by a surveillance camera. The footage was aired by the province’s Southern Television Guangdong (TVS) and posted last Saturday on the Chinese video site Youku, drawing around 2 million views and thousands of comments on that site alone.

The footage shows a two-and-a-half-year-old girl hit and run over by a large white van while walking down a street in a market district of Foshan. About six minutes later, another passing van runs her over again. During the interval, at least 18 people walk by without helping her. Finally last an elderly trash collector comes to her aid, moving her to a side of the street and calling her mother.

The apathy of the bystanders and people in the neighborhood has shocked the public, with media commentators and netizens seething over an incident that raises questions about the morality and conscience of today’s China.

“[Ancient Chinese thinker] Mencius said, ‘The heart of sympathy is essential to man.’ What has made us so apathetic?… Lack of sympathy is a moral disaster facing us all … Let us all ask ourselves if we had passed by the scene, how many of us would have stopped to help the girl?” wrote a commentary on Chongqing Times.

It went on to blame the system for a lack of mechanisms that support good deeds. “Our current system is obviously in an embarrassing status: corruption continues to run wild and evil people enjoy privileges, scandals with charity organizations such as the Red Cross stop people from donating to help the needy. [3] All this certainly shakes up the beliefs of kind-hearted people.”

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Filed under civil society, courts, law

“Chinese internet activist Wang Lihong goes on trial”

Apparently fellow activists are kicking up a fuss:

Protesters gathered outside a Beijing court on Friday as a Chinese internet activist went on trial in a case the demonstrators see as a warning shot to other rights campaigners.

Wang Lihong faces up to five years in prison for “creating a disturbance”. She was detained in March amid a sweeping crackdown on the rights movement, apparently triggered by government fears of protests inspired by the Arab spring.

The leading Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, who was himself held for 81 days, tweeted this week: “If you don’t speak for Wang Lihong, and don’t speak for Ran Yunfei [a detained blogger released the next day], you are not only a person who will not stand up for fairness and justice; you do not have self-respect.”

Qi said Wang became involved in activism three years ago after reading about Yang Jia, who was executed for killing six Shanghai police officers in retaliation for alleged police brutality.

She also highlighted the case of Deng Yujiao, a waitress who stabbed to death an official who had demanded sex.

Wang also celebrated when the jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo won the Nobel peace prize last year, telling the Associated Press: “I think the most important thing is that every person learns how to be their own citizen, and not become someone else’s subordinate.”

No date has been set for Wang’s next court appearance. Guilty verdicts are a near certainty in such cases, although occasionally courts have quietly released defendants on bail.

Outside the court, security officials tried to drag away Zhao Lianhai, who was jailed for campaigning over a tainted milk scandal after his baby became ill, but stopped when others intervened.

“After I was put in jail, sister Wang cared about me and went to visit my wife and children … without her, I wouldn’t have freedom today,” Zhao said. “Maybe we can’t change anything by coming here, but we want to express our beliefs.”

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Filed under civil society, courts, Jasmine Revolution

“Desperation in Fuzhou”

In another reaction to Fuzhou Bomber Jian Mingqi, Zhongnanhai Blog writes about what could drive someone to bomb three government offices:

While I cannot condone what Qian did, I certainly understand it. Who, reading this blog post, hasn’t been driven up the wall by a Chinese immigration official, a ticket seller, a waiter or waitress, or a business owner, when you know instinctively that you are being taken advantage of, there’s nothing you can do about it, and nobody cares? In a society with a rule of law, if you are wronged, you can take your adversary to court in pursuit of justice. You may not win, but you are given a chance in front of an impartial judge and/or jury. Not having that option will eventually lead to social unrest, corruption, lawlessness and attacks such as the one in Fuzhou.

As I’ve said repeatedly and written on this blog, more instances of social unrest will occur unless the government creates a mechanism by which people can air their grievances and have them solved in an impartial manner. The status quo is simply not sustainable. The people holed up in Zhongnanhai are dealing with a much more restive and interconnected population, and they need to be given a way to decompress. A civil society is forming, albeit slowly, and it would serve the government well to manage it rather than suppress it. If not, we may look back at Qian’s attack as the beginning of something much larger.

Not condoning, but understanding.  These are the sentiments you hear over and over again here, from all directions.  If I was a senior official in Beijing right now, I would find this very ominous.

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Filed under China, civil society, law