Guizhou Riots ‘Stem From Oppression’

A provincial Communist Party boss and former top Party aide take aim at officials after rioting in southwestern China.
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WENG'AN, China: Photos posted on Chinese Web sites of rioting in Weng'an, Guizhou province, June 28, 2008.
WENG'AN, China: Photos posted on Chinese Web sites of rioting in Weng'an, Guizhou province, June 28, 2008.
Photo: AFP

HONG KONG—Recent unrest in China’s southwestern province of Guizhou is part of a much darker picture of oppression meted out by officials who use armed security forces “however they like” to solve disputes with citizens, according to the provincial Communist Party boss and a former top aide.

In line with official comments on the June 28 riots, which were sparked by the death of a 17-year-old girl amid allegations of rape and a cover-up of official wrongdoing, Guizhou Party chief Shi Zongyuan has blamed the incident on “some people with ulterior motives” who “incited the mob to frenzy.”

But in a striking departure from government-style rhetoric, he went on to say that it was the shortcomings of local officials that had caused long-simmering anger among local people, blaming them for failing to pay attention to disputes over mines and the relocation of migrant workers.

“Their actions don’t accomplish anything, and they don’t get to the crux of the matter,” Shi told a crisis meeting on the unrest in Weng’an county last week. “As soon as something happens, they simply call out the public security bureau and send them off to the front line.”

His comments were taken up by former top Communist Party official Bao Tong.

“Mr. Shi’s comments are subtle, yet very much to the point,” Bao said in an essay broadcast on RFA’s Mandarin service.

“In other republics, the government has been elected by the people. But China specializes in delivering political power through the barrel of a gun,” he wrote from his Beijing apartment, where he has been held under house arrest since being released from jail in the wake of the 1989 military crackdown on student-led protests in Tiananmen Square.

'Tradition of abuse'

Bao’s late former boss, Chinese premier Zhao Ziyang, fell from power after calling for dialogue with students in 1989. Bao said the Guizhou incident was symptomatic of a long tradition of power abuse at every level of the Communist Party and its government.

“There are some officials in China, great and small, who have become so used to being officials that that becomes their starting point for everything. This attitude means that in sizing up a situation and in calculating what to do about it, they automatically oppose themselves to the people,” Bao said.

“Instead of seeing the people as the ultimate value, they turn that value on its head and see them with hatred, as the enemy.”

Shi’s comments made him stand out from the crowd, Bao added.

Shi also told the meeting: “The people’s rights and interests have been violated time and again during the course of the development of the mining industry in Weng’an county, what with the large influx of migrant workers and all the demolitions and evictions that it brought in train.”

“In the course of resolving social conflict and disputes that arose, some officials employed cruel and crude tactics,” Bao quoted him as saying. “Their approach was simple. They simply used the police to enforce their will.”

Widespread pattern

Bao said he knew no better than anyone else what had actually happened in Guizhou, where greatly differing versions of events are posted rapidly online before being tracked down and removed by censors based on key “forbidden words.”

But he said the facts of the case were less important than the political reality against which they were played out, because the problems of Guizhou are continually re-enacted across China in thousands of “mass incidents” every year.

Some friends wanted to do their own investigation, but the government stopped them and no reason was given."
Dissident Quan Linzhi

“It’s not just certain key officials and local leaders on the Weng’an county Party committee and county government who see ordinary citizens trying to stand up for their rights as the enemy. You can find this attitude among officials serving on a large number of county Party committees and in county governments,” he said.

“It often goes right down to the village Party committee and branch committee level. If we trace the source back upstream, you can find such officials at municipal and provincial level, and in the central government.”

Autopsy result expected

Authorities in Weng’an were poised to announce the results of a second autopsy on the body of Li Shufen on Tuesday. The original enquiry returned a verdict of “suicide by drowning.”

Meanwhile, Guizhou-based Shen Younian, said fellow activists Chen Xi, Liao Shuangyuan and Wu Yuqin were planning to carry out their own investigation into her death.

“They should be on their way to Weng’an right now to find out the true cause of this incident and how this incident escalated into a riot,” Shen said.

But another Guizhou-based dissident, Quan Linzhi, said the government had already forbidden civilians from getting involved.

“Some friends wanted to do their own investigation, but the government stopped them and no reason was given,” Quan said. “Authorities just told them not to go. They don’t like others getting involved in the investigation.”

He said the group would start collecting all available information and picking up on “suspicious areas” in the government version of events.

Bao said the Guizhou unrest stemmed from a systemic failure to apply the rule of law, which he blamed on the ideological politics of division and conflict. This, he said, was exemplified by the late chairman Mao Zedong and continued by former supreme leader Deng Xiaoping in his suppression of the 1989 Tiananmen protests.

“These living specimens have been created by the system,” Bao said. “You can find them at all points of the compass, higher up and lower down. It is forbidding terrain indeed, and these snakes in the grass are usually at the heart of any incident of popular unrest."

He called for the ghosts of Mao and Deng to be laid to rest once and for all, so that they would “no longer interfere in the running of the country."

“So who has the power to ‘deploy police force’ whenever they want to? It certainly isn’t ordinary Chinese people, nor is it a democratically elected government,” Bao wrote.

“It is a pack of bureaucrats nominated by the Communist Party, whose names have been picked out of a mechanical ‘election’ process, who have been given a franchise on state power, with no competition.”

Original essay by Bao Tong. Reporting in Mandarin by Qiao Long. RFA Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Translated and written for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie and Jia Yuan. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.





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