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Pork Prices Hit Record High – Sign of Political Problem

An increase in the cost of feed coupled with a drop in the supply of pigs due to disease has made pork a top priority for the Chinese government. Pork is the most important staple meat for China’s 1.3 billion people. Any sustained interruption in supply would be a major political problem for the country. Premier Wen Jiabao provided confirmation of the crisis when he made a weekend visit on May 28, 2007, to a market in Shaanxi Province.

Overseas Chinese Scholar on Democracy in China

On January 14, 2008, Study Times, the official publication of the Party School of the Communist Party of China, published an article by Wei-Wei Zhang, Senior Research Fellow at the Modern Asia Research Center in Geneva. The article entitled, “Reflections on Western Democracy,” affirms the current policies of the Communist Party.

Citing the failures of western democracy in developing countries, the article states that China has successfully maintained stability over the past 30 years and that living standards of Chinese people have significantly improved, coupled with a ten-fold increase in the economy. The article suggests that China should first focus on economic and educational development, followed by the rule of law and last by democracy.

Zhang served as senior English interpreter for Deng Xiaoping and other Chinese Communist leaders in the mid-1980s.

Source: Study Times, January 14, 2008.

Insider Trading a Serious Problem

The Communist Party’s Central Commission for Inspection and Discipline reported that China will crack down on insider trading by government officials as part of the Party’s renewed effort to limit corruption. Officials and their families who use their positions to profit from insider trading, construction bids, land sales, and trading of property rights will face legal action. Xinhua reported that 25,654 officials were indicted for corruption in 2006 and 23,144 from January to November in 2007. This figure included several high-profile investigations, such as ones that toppled the communist party chief in Shanghai and the former head of the Chinese Food and Drug Administration.

Source: Xinhua, January 17, 2008

Loving Communism to Be Taught to China’s Youth

Xinhua reported on January 15 that, starting in March 2008, the concept of “giving thanks” will be added to the curriculum for all elementary and middle schools in ShenYang City. The municipal Department of Education spokesperson emphasized respect for parents and teachers as part of the new effort to teach values in schools. He also mentioned that loving the [communist] Party, loving the motherland, loving society and loving people will be part of the new curriculum.

Source: Xinhua, Shenyang, January 15, 2008

Innocent Victim Beaten to Death after Filming City Officer’s Violence

Wei Wenhua, the manager of a water resources construction company in Tianmen City, Hubei Province, was beaten to death on January 7, 2008, by dozens of Municipal Law Enforcement officers known as chengguan in Tianmen, Hubei. He was beaten after using his mobile phone camera to film the officers in a violent clash with protesters. The death of Wei triggered an outrage from local residents. Municipal Law Enforcement chief Qi Zhengjun was fired because of Wei’s death. This is one of the few cases where Chinese official media covered social injustice and large scale unrest in a high profile way.

The following are excerpts from articles published in domestic and overseas Chinese language media.

On January 11, 2008, Chengdu Daily reported that,[1]

“Tianmen is a mid-sized city in the Wuhan metropolitan area, with a population of 280,000. Although the city generates more than 10, 600 cubic meters of trash every day, the city has to bury the trash in the open as it has no trash management facilities. In 2005, the Environment Protection Bureau signed a two-year contract with the village committee of Wanba in the suburbs of Tianmen to assign two fish ponds for burying the cities’ trash.

“Villagers living near the ponds did not agree with dumping trash into the ponds because of the strong foul smells, swarms of mosquitoes and flies, and deterioration of the water quality. Starting from January 1, 2008, the villagers blocked the garbage trucks from entering the area.

“Around 3 pm on January 7, the villagers blocked the garbage truck again. Around 5 pm, staffers of the local Environment Protection Bureau reported this to the chief of the Municipal Law Enforcement Bureau, who sent more than 50 officers to the spot. The officers, also known as chengguan, confronted the villagers. Several villagers were hurt during the fight.”

“According to Wang Liangfa, Vice Mayor of Tianmen and a member of the Standing Committee of the Chinese Communist Party of Tianmen city, the Municipal Law Enforcement Bureau has 80 formal officers, all of whom were hired following a process of competitive examinations. Wang testified that those who participated in the fight on the 7th were all official employees.

“Around 5:10 pm, Wei Wenhua, General Manager of the Tianmen Water Conservancy Construction Company, was driving back to downtown Tianmen city with the company’s party chief, Wang Shutang. Because the confrontation blocked traffic Wei got out of the car and taped the clash with his camera phone.

“According to Wang Shutang, while taping the incident, Wei was surrounded and beaten by a dozen of the chengguan. Wei lifted his arms and the chengguan grabbed his camera phone away. They attacked him for five minutes.

Wang recounted that the chengguan beat Wei from the east side of the road to the center of the road, and then from the center to the west side of the road, until Wei collapsed. Because Wei was not breathing, Wang asked the chengguan to send Wei to the hospital. According to the doctor at Tianmen First People’s Hospital, Wei was already dead when he arrived at the hospital.

“At present, over 100 related personnel, including Qi Zhengjun, Deputy Secretary-General of the city government and chief of the Municipal Law Enforcement Bureau are under investigation. The Public Security Bureau has charged 24 suspects and detained four on criminal charges.”

Xinhua News Agency reported on January 12, [2]

“Currently, (the Public Security Bureau) has detained four suspects on criminal charges including Sun Daibang, chief of Discipline Inspection of the Municipal Law Enforcement Bureau. Qi Zhengjun, Deputy Secretary-General of the city government and chief of The Municipal Law Enforcement Bureau was fired and is under investigation.”

Radio Free Asia reported on January 11 that, [3]

“After Wei was beaten to death, hundreds of villagers and Wei’s relatives took his body to the Municipal Law Enforcement Bureau, and then paraded to the city government office. The body was placed in front of the city government building, and thousands of people surrounded the building. The government, fearing the situation would get out of control, decided to snatch the body. According to Wei’s relatives, more than 100 fire fighters, military police, special police, and plain clothes police rushed to grab the body. Wei’s family confronted them and attempted to protect the body. Finally the police succeeded in seizing the body.”

In an article from Voice of America on January 10, [4]

“Critics said that violent enforcement of the law has been abhorred by the Chinese people, but nothing could be done about it. This type of direct violation of citizens’ personal freedoms and even life has become common practice. These cases are not newsworthy in China.

“When the law enforcement personnel use violence against the public, China’s official media usually play down the story. However, beating Wei Wenhua to death for merely filming the violence of the law enforcement officers triggered enormous anger among the people. This time, official media reacted quite differently in from the past.”

“Qing Geng, a Chinese writer, said that the anger shown by official media is quite funny. It sounds as if this type of violence by law enforcement officers is something foreign, instead of the regular occurrence that it is in China.”

“He added, knowingly violating the law is not a new phenomenon. Why didn’t the official media express anger? Why does it come so late?”
“Observers pointed out that although the official media responded to the death of Wei Wenhua, it has been avoiding a critical issue: the key to the violation of basic human rights of the Chinese people by chengguan or government/party officials is that the power of the party/government is not subject to public constraint and scrutiny.”

[1] Chengdu Daily, January 11, 2008
[2] Xinhua News Agency, January 12, 2008
[3] Radio Free Asia, January 11, 2008
[4] Voice of America, January 10, 2008

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