Caixin, a magazine which has constantly pushed the envelope in China, has a blog post by Ding Jinkun about a rape case in Guizhou which has been getting noticed lately. The daughter of Tian Wanchang, former vice-mayor of Liupanshui City, has accused a man of raping her two years ago. The accused isn’t just your average Zhou, though, he’s actually a very wealth Mr. Zhou who just happens to have a seat on the provincial Communist Party standing council. It looks like Mr. Zhou has used his connections to stymie all attempts at investigations. As Ding says:
A case like this cuts to the core of Chinese society, and the picture it paints is not flattering. It is a picture of jungle warfare, of a primitive world where power, force, is the only law. It is only because, in this case, the two sides happen to be more evenly matched – officialdom versus wealth – that anyone even knows that this case exists. Imagine a similar case involving the wealthy on one side and an ordinary citizen on the other – is there even any doubt that the case would never see the light of day? The injustice would certainly remain buried forever, regardless of the truth or the severity of the crime.
In this case, we have in Mr. Tian an official once in charge of maintaining social stability who, over the course of his career, doubtlessly clamped down on many who had been labeled disturbers of the peace. And now, following a bitter turn of events, he himself has been labeled one of those “unstable factors” threatening the very society he worked for years to maintain order in. More ironic still, despite his years of service to the state he is now unable to seek legal recourse for his own daughter. How is a father, how is anyone, expected to stomach a travesty of this magnitude?
Local business tycoons are in cahoots with the local authorities to a stupefying degree. The moneyed class is in fact so ingratiated with local government that the wealthy have become the de factor political rulers. What has emerged is a despotism where citizens are sacrificed on the altar of the powerful, where legal rulings are constantly harming the people they are meant to help. Citizens looking to protect their rights will simply never win versus officials or versus the rich. Their only choice is to perish together, pitiable and powerless.
What we rightly expect is a society under the rule of law and not the rule of man. In this society all officials and citizens are treated fairly and equally. Everyone is punished and protected alike under the same written system of law. A society under the rule of man, ever pitting strength against strength without the equalizing hand of an unbiased court system, will lead to injustice piled upon injustice, revenge begetting revenge. Such a society can never be fair and will never be free.
Maybe I should throw out the entire tag system and replace them all with ‘rule of law.’ Demands for legal protection and the delivery of rights guaranteed by the Chinese Constitution are what we hear over and over again from migrant workers in Guangdong and farmers in central China and yak herders in Tibet and journalists in Shanghai and shop owners in Xinjiang and now, when his number didn’t come up, a former vice-mayor in Guizhou. If anyone can make the system work for him, it should have been Mr. Zhou. If he can’t, how is anyone else supposed to? And if no one can, how is China supposed to work in the long run?