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January 10, 2017
On December 23, 2016, President Obama signed into law “The Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act” (NDAA 2017, section 1261-1265). The law authorizes the U.S. president to levy sanctions against foreign nationals who engage in the following acts: significant corruption, extrajudicial killings, torture, violation of international human rights covenants, and persecution of those who expose government corruption or seek to defend internationally recognized human rights.
The mechanisms it provides to the president to carry out such sanctions include prohibiting or revoking U.S. entry visas or other entry documentation; freezing and prohibiting U.S. property transactions of an individual if such property and property interests are in the United States, come within the United States, or are in or come within the control of a U.S. person or entity.
The absence of democratic election, rule of law, and checks and balances, breeds corruption. As a result, power and money work hand in hand to pillage the people and society.
The Chinese communist regime is unrestrained in violating China’s own law and internationally recognized human rights standards. Its barbaric attack on civil society actors is widely known; forced disappearances, torture in custody, illegal and arbitrary detention, and use of severe prison terms have become routine.
While the regime acts at will to violate its own laws or alter them as it sees fit, it has also established an extralegal apparatus dedicated to human rights persecution, systematically targeting rights defenders.
The Chinese Communist regime uses the promise of profit to turn interest groups in China into violators of human rights — and these human rights violators in turn operate under the shelter of the regime, never punished for their transgressions.
As human rights defenders, we will use this new U.S. law, as well as similar laws that have been and will be passed in other countries, as a tool to bring sanctions against Chinese human rights violators and corrupt officials.
We hereby announce the joint establishment of the China Human Rights Accountability Center (中国人权问责中心).
The Center will conduct the following tasks:
- Collect cases, data, and evidence on Chinese human rights violators and corrupt officials;
- Write reports based on such data and evidence;
- Push the U.S. government to enforce the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, to ensure that specific and effective sanctions are taken against human rights violators;
- Promote the establishment of similar human rights accountability legislation in other democratic countries.
The work of the office will be conducted in the San Francisco Bay Area and in Washington, D.C.
Founders (not in order of importance):
Hu Jia (胡佳), Yaxue Cao (曹雅学), Zhou Fengsuo (周锋锁), Yang Jianli (杨建利), Chen Guangcheng (陈光诚), Teng Biao (滕彪), Han Lianchao (韩连潮), Bob Fu (傅希秋), Fang Zheng (方政), Tong Mu (童木).
(The official website is under construction. Inquiries may be sent to email@example.com)
2016年12月23日，美国总统奥巴马签署了全球马格尼茨基人权问责法(The Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act) (《2017财政年度国防授权法》第 1261-1265节)，该法案正式成为美国法律。
Zhuang Liehong, November 23, 2016
“Wukan is a big prison now. Scores of villagers have been detained, including my father. Police patrol the streets and roads, and life is difficult.” – Wukan villager Zhuang Liehong
Wukan, a fishing village in eastern Guangdong Province, occupies an area of about 5,765 acres and has a population of 13,000. Since 1993, corrupt officials have conspired with businessmen to secretly sell off the collectively-owned, arable village land, and pocket the proceeds.
This led to large-scale petitions and protests to defend villagers’ rights from 2009 to 2011. As they fought for their land and for democracy in their village, Wukan residents were faced with extreme hardship, and the local government did everything it could — including plots and conspiracies — to deny and block these demands. In 2011, the authorities launched a crackdown on the village, and a number of the key villagers involved in defending their rights, including myself, were arrested. Xue Jinbo (薛锦波) was treated particularly cruelly, and died in prison.
Under the gaze of international media, then-Party chief of Guangdong Province (and current Politburo member and vice premier), Wang Yang (汪洋), made a show of goodwill, sending Zhu Mingguo (朱明国), then-vice Party secretary of Guangdong, to the village to ease tensions, affirm that the villagers’ demands were legitimate, and promise that the demands would be met. Now, however, it appears that all this was simply the government buying time while the world was watching.
In 2012, after Wukan formed its own democratically-elected village committee, the government used a range of methods to sow discord among villagers, erode the bonds of trust between them, lay traps for the most active village rights defense activists, and manipulate and control public opinion. Four years on, the government has put overwhelming emphasis on “stability maintenance” (meaning police and other security forces), and has not met any of the villagers’ demands for the return of the stolen land. Between 2012 and 2016, the authorities arrested one villager, (Zhang Dejia [张德家]), and sentenced three others — Hong Ruichao (洪锐潮), Yang Semao (杨色茂), and Lin Zuluan (林祖銮) — to prison.
In order to avoid the same fate, I fled to the United States on January 27, 2014, and applied for political asylum. For 85 days between June 19 and September 12, 2016, Wukan villagers organized daily protest marches through the streets, with about 4,000 participants every day.
On September 13, they were violently suppressed by thousands of riot police.
At about 3 a.m. on September 13, a battalion of armed police moved on the village, raiding houses and arresting 13 villagers that the government considered to be the most high-profile, including my father, Zhuang Songkun (庄松坤). Come dawn, thousands of fully-armed People’s Armed Police locked down village street intersections, dividing the crowd and then crushing the protest. They fired countless rounds of rubber bullets, and volleyed canisters of tear gas and shock grenades into the unarmed villagers. Then they began surrounding and violently beating villagers, without regard to whether they were old, women, or children. Faced with this violent, armed suppression, villagers resorted to throwing rocks and bricks. Hundreds of villagers were injured during the conflict, and reports indicate that an old woman died after being shot twice with rubber bullets. Nearly 100 villagers are believed to have been arrested.
Following the incident a large number of armed police, SWAT teams, and plainclothes officers installed themselves on practically every street corner in the village, even organizing patrols along the thoroughfares and back alleys. They severed internet access to block news about what happened from getting out, and stopped Hong Kong and international media from getting in. While all this was taking place, official media published gravely false reports about the suppression of the village. In the nearly three months since then, Wukan has become one big prison. Heavily armed riot police patrol the streets and alleys, members of the village Party committee act as spies, and the arbitrary arrest of villagers continues.
There are multiple indications that the violent suppression of Wukan this time was carried out on the direct orders of the Guangdong provincial government. Reports say that the vice-secretary of Guangdong was commanding the suppression from the nearby city of Lufeng (陆丰市), and that the thousands of riot and SWAT police deployed had been mobilized from the Huizhou Military District (惠州军区). The only one authorized to bring this level of force to bear is the current Guangdong Party secretary, Hu Chunhua (胡春华), so I’m positive that the violent suppression of Wukan was ordered by him.
On September 19, activist Yao Cheng (姚诚), a friend, and I were on our way to the United Nations headquarters in New York City to protest, when we were accosted and harassed by over a dozen men in identical black suits and blue raincoats — apparently national security agents from Chinese premier Li Keqiang’s (李克强) security detail. After we all got into an argument, one of the men took an open letter I handed to him, addressed to the Chinese Consul General in New York. We proceeded to the designated area at the UN and held our protest as planned. The following morning, however, I was shocked to receive a telephone call from the Lufeng public security bureau, who had detained my father, and were forcing him to tell me to keep quiet. On the one hand I was so glad to be in America, yet also realized that my right to express myself freely here is still limited by the Chinese authorities, and my own personal safety is even put at risk.
Wukan is still fraught with tension and conflict: the villagers have had two thirds of their land stolen from them, and this already put their basic livelihood under enormous pressure. Now, the entire area has been turned into a jail. So many villagers have been badly injured and arrested, which is another severe blow. Many families don’t even have the money to pay for proper medical treatment, and now rely on relatives from nearby villages to send them rations just so they can survive.
For all these reasons, I make the following demands of the Chinese authorities:
I. Cease the suppression and detention of Wukan villagers;
II. Release Lin Zuluan, Hong Ruichao, Yang Semao, Wei Yonghan (魏永汉), Zhang Xiangkang (张向坑), Yang Jinzhen (杨锦贞), Yang Shaoji (杨少集), Liu Hanchai (刘汉钗), Hong Yongzhong (洪永忠), Zhuang Songkun, Lin Desheng (林德升) and all other Wukan villagers who sought to defend their legal rights to the village land, and release the body — or, if still alive, the person — of the 80-year-old grandmother who was shot twice at close range with rubber bullets and reportedly killed;
III. Arrange for the immediate medical care of the roughly 100 villagers who were severely injured by riot police, and who are now hiding in their homes attempting to recover;
IV. Return the stolen land to Wukan village;
V. Hold accountable the chief culprit that orchestrated the violent suppression of peaceful Wukan villagers on September 13: Guangdong Party Secretary Hu Chunhua.
Wukan villager Zhuang Liehong (庄烈宏)
November 22, 2016
By Chang Ping, published: October 18, 2015
“Everyone’s already used to it, and that’s precisely the problem.”
Now the United Nations has its own, China-style “big tiger.” The former head of the UN General Assembly, John Ashe, is being charged with taking bribes from numerous Chinese business interests, and was arrested near New York City recently. The UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, expressed his shock, requesting the UN’s internal supervisory agency to begin its own procedures. Corruption in any form at the UN, or in the name of the UN, would not be tolerated, he said.
How close this script is to the anti-corruption campaign going on in China. When Xi Jinping expresses surprise at the severity of the corruption at high levels of the regime, Chinese people all know that it’s part of the act—Xi understands officialdom like the back of his hand. I’m sure that Ban Ki-moon is not in quite the same position, but I must still say: Mr. Ban Ki-moon, if you really understood China’s ubiquitous culture of corruption; if you understood how China’s influence on every aspect of the world is increasing; and if you understood the attitude that the UN you lead has toward China, you really wouldn’t be so surprised.
John Ashe received bribes from the Chinese real estate developer Wu Lisheng (吴立胜) to the order of $1.3 million. This money allowed him to push forward a UN project to build a conference center in Macau—with Wu Lisheng’s company as the contractor. Let’s take note of the details surrounding the case exposed by U.S. attorney Preet Bharara: “As alleged in the indictment, for Rolexes, bespoke suits, and a private basketball court, John Ashe, the 68th President of the U.N. General Assembly, sold himself and the global institution he led.” Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was corruption. Just like officialdom in China, it accumulated bit by bit, with gold watches, fine suits, and nights of entertainment.
A Habitat for ‘Tigers’
A few years ago a reporter with The Washington Post told me that in America, one can’t accept a meal from a source being interviewed. I said: What about China? He said that if you tried to stick to this principle in China, you’d lose a lot of sources. I have some foreign journalist friends in China, but I’m too embarrassed to broach this kind of subject with them. It would be as laughable as living in a garbage dump and talking to people about not littering.
A German friend told me that when Chinese and German companies do business together, the Chinese side always demands that the Germans travel to the airport to pick them up, especially when a company leader is coming. The demand is the same even if the airport is several cities and many hours drive away. The Germans are always perplexed. Moreover, the Chinese are only willing to get down to business over a meal. Consulting companies explain it away as Chinese culture—if you want to do business, then fit in.
But picking up company heads from the airport isn’t merely a matter of etiquette; it reinforces the Communist Party’s official culture of hierarchy. In China, restaurants and bars aren’t just places for eating and drinking. In a recent article in ChinaFile, the Beijing-based American writer James Palmer gave a detailed description of the sexual and monetary favors and bribes exchanged in the course of doing business in China. Palmer called the system “The Bro Code,” and it started at the dining table.
A senior journalist at the Hamburg Evening News told me that they’ve received letters from the Chinese consulate on a number of occasions, attempting to interfere in the paper’s reporting. He said that the editorial department usually just ignores them—dictatorships like to interfere in freedom of the press; so the press gets used to it. I responded: If a department of the German government sent you one of these letters, would you also just brush it aside? He admitted that this would indeed be a major scandal, and that the media would lodge a serious protest. Everyone knows that one of the reasons the former German president, Christian Wilhelm Walter Wulff, resigned was because he had made a menacing phone call to the chief editor of Bild-Zeitung, thus interfering in the freedom of the press. Evidently the media in Western countries hold a double standard: on the one hand, they demand that their own democratic governments be upright in all respects, and on the other allow dictatorships to act as they please. Everyone’s already used to it, and that’s precisely the problem.
The Chinese government has been successful in convincing many Chinese people that entertainment and politics can be separated. At a hearing in the U.S. Congress on October 7, Rep. Brad Sherman remarked that China’s control of freedom of expression has already exceeded its national borders, and that Hollywood is now catering to Chinese censors’ tastes.
I speak of these anecdotes, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, because I’m sure you already know that when Xi Jinping goes visiting, even countries like France, the cradle of our modern conceptions of human rights, can be made to shut their mouths and not say a word about human rights and other contentious issues. I just want to let you know, prior to the recent shocking news, the sort of relationship China has had with countries around the world.
Appeasement and Corruption Go Together
Let’s now look at the case of the United Nations. In May this year, I was at an international human rights forum in São Paulo, Brazil. I heard the presentation of an international human rights group supported by the UN that had conducted an investigation of the American military’s abuse of prisoners in custody in Afghanistan. I asked them: why don’t you also go and investigate the even worse abuses in the Masanjia Women’s Labor Camp in China? The response: “China’s hard to deal with.”
I believe that this is also the attitude of the UN. The UN is right to publicly condemn the abuses of the American military; but Mr. Ban Ki-moon, do you really not know about the “black jails” all over China that regularly deal out more inhuman brutality? Why don’t they warrant a mention from you?
Mr. Ban Ki-moon, a couple of weeks ago Xi Jinping was in New York with you speaking at the UN Women conference. But you must surely know that the Chinese police, on the eve of International Women’s Day in March, arrested the “Feminist Five” who had planned to protest against sexual harassment on public transportation. They’re still not free. You must also know that Gao Yu, a journalist and the recipient of UNESCO’s Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize, human rights activist Liu Ping, rights lawyer Wang Yu, and many other women have been locked up by the Chinese government. You must also know the case of rights activist Ms. Cao Shunli, who was arrested in September 2013 en route to attend a meeting of the United Nation’s Human Rights Council. By March of 2014 she died of abuse in custody.
When UN Women says not a word of protest about these incidents, how different is it from the All-China Women’s Federation controlled by the Communist Party? Mr. Ban Ki-moon, when Xi Jinping held a grand military parade on September 3, you accepted the invitation and appeared on the rostrum above Tiananmen Square to observe it. Did you really not see how it resembled nothing other than the military parades held by Nazi Germany 70 years ago? Even Hitler didn’t shut down factory production and seal off the ovens of peasants to engineer “military parade blue” skies.
Mr. Ban Ki-moon, you probably think that these political choices all differ from the question of accepting bribes. But let me tell you, all this is itself a type of corruption, and doesn’t conform to the core values of the United Nations. The Chinese government, just like the real estate developers it works so closely with, believe that everything can be solved with money. Go and ask Mr. Ashe, and he’ll likely say that this is how the corruption started: “I was respecting the customs of the Chinese people.” Playing a round of tennis, accepting a watch…
Even though Xi Jinping can’t live up to it himself, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, I’d like to give you these words to remember: fighting corruption means “going after flies and tigers at the same time.” With all the misconduct around you, you oughtn’t be surprised by the revelation of “big tigers.”
Chang Ping (长平) was the former chief commentator and news director of Southern Weekend (《南方周末》). He writes columns for the South China Morning Post, Deutsche Welle, and a number of Chinese language websites. Forced to leave China and then Hong Kong, he currently lives in Germany.
原文《长平观察：潘基文先生，您不必如此震惊》, translated by China Change.
Present-Day Ethnic Problems in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region: Overview and Recommendations (7) – Governmental Competence and Credibility
By Ilham Tohti, translated by Cindy Carter, published: May 12, 2015
Continued from I. Unemployment, II. Bilingual Education, III. Religion, IV. Ethnic Alienation and Segregation, V. Distrust of Ethnic Minority Officials and Intellectuals, and VI. The Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps.
VII. Governmental Competence and Credibility
There is a vast disparity between economic and social development in Xinjiang and in other regions of mainland China. This disparity extends to the official mindset: at all levels of government in Xinjiang, we encounter a mentality that falls far short of what is needed to govern and manage Xinjiang’s societal complexities.
The class struggle and dictatorial mindset that died out so long ago in other parts of China (particularly in the economically-developed coastal regions) still exists, to varying degrees, in some places in Xinjiang. Compared to other regions of mainland China, Xinjiang retains more aspects of the planned economy: officials at all levels are inclined to be heavy-handed, and local officials have the final say in what crops farmers are allowed to plant. This occurs not only within the Corps: in some areas, it is only within the last year or two that farmers have won the right to manage their own agricultural activities. Uighur farmers in southern Xinjiang are still in the habit of referring to the township government as “The Commune,” because many people don’t sense that tremendous changes have transformed China’s society.
Xinjiang’s cadres and officials have a weak grasp of modern concepts of legality. There is a distinct “generation gap” in the mentality of cadres in Xinjiang’s developed cities, such as Urumqi, and their contemporaries in even more developed regions of China; likewise, there is a “generation gap” in the mindset of cadres in rural southern Xinjiang and cadres in Xinjiang’s more developed northern cities. During the July 2009 ethnic unrest, rural cadres from southern Xinjiang were transferred to Urumqi en masse to help maintain order; their behavior was so boorish that even the local cadres in Urumqi were appalled.
The program to transfer laborers from Xinjiang to Shaoguan in Guangdong Province [where the “Shaoguan Incident” of June 25-26, 2009, took place] started out as a positive and worthwhile endeavor. The way in which it was carried out, however, called to mind coercive methods that were more prevalent in the 1980s: home demolitions, forced relocations, land confiscation, and so on. Poor governance at the grassroots level doomed the program from the start, and bred a climate of suspicion and resistance.
In southern Xinjiang in particular, Chinese cadres are very nearly regarded as “stand-ins” for all Han Chinese, representatives of an entire race of people. As such, if their methods of governing are unjust or inept, conflicts between citizens and officials can easily escalate into ethnic conflict.
Therefore, we may surmise that the quality of Xinjiang’s cadres is a decisive factor in determining how smoothly the government can implement its policies there.
Zhang Chunxian now faces the test of rebuilding the government’s image within the community. There are two aspects to this test: the former is restoring government credibility, the latter is convincing citizens that they will not be punished for exercising their right to free speech.
Regarding the former: Between the Shaoguan incident of June 2009 and the syringe attacks later that year, there were all sorts of rumors flying in both the Han Chinese and Uighur communities. Certainly, this was the result of long-simmering ethnic tensions and mutual distrust, but it also reflected the local government’s approach to handling news and information. Over the years, this approach has eroded public trust in the media and made people unwilling to believe anything the government has to say.
Regarding the latter: in Xinjiang’s peculiar legal environment, people can be punished just for speaking out—and punished very severely. This pervasive, coercive atmosphere of fear still exists.
Xinjiang’s remoteness, an economy still dominated by centralized planning, social development that lags behind other areas of China, and two decades of political upheaval on its periphery have naturally led to the dictatorial mindset that prevails at all levels of Xinjiang’s local government.
In addition, local governments in Xinjiang are tasked with providing jobs to demobilized military officers, which means that a large proportion of Xinjiang’s grassroots cadres are former military officers. Long years of indoctrination about being the “first line of defense,” combined with military working methods, has given rise to a unique governing style among Xinjiang’s lower-level cadres. Particularly in southern Xinjiang, where living and working conditions are difficult, grassroots cadres are selected primarily for their political qualifications and reliability. As for overall mindset and quality of character, these are not even on the list of criteria, and Xinjiang’s limited resources make it impossible to provide systematic training for grassroots cadres spread far and wide.
Since 1997, overall society in Xinjiang has been in a state of high alert against “the three forces” [of terrorism, religious extremism and separatism], thus further strengthening the dictatorial tendencies of Xinjiang’s grassroots cadres. When it comes to dealing with societal and ethnic conflicts, they are resolved to do whatever it takes to smother potential conflict as quickly as possible before it can spread.
Thoughts and Recommendations
- Crack down on corruption. Official corruption in Xinjiang is far more brazen than in other parts of China, and its methods and nature even more vile. The only way to restore people’s confidence in government is to eliminate corruption.
- Conduct training for all cadres in the areas of legal regulations, effective governance, and civilized law enforcement. Supplement this with various and convenient methods of social supervision and public reporting to enhance and improve awareness among Xinjiang’s cadres.
- Enhance information transparency. Learning from the experiences of more progressive areas of China and allowing local media more latitude to function will create a positive atmosphere that empowers the community and boosts public morale.
- When transferring or exchanging cadres, focus on sending cadres to (or accepting them from) the southeastern seaboard region, the major metropolises of Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, and similarly developed areas, while reducing the number of cadres from the north. Use the latest ideas and concepts from these developed areas to influence awareness and promote a positive change in local attitudes.
- When recruiting and promoting cadres or civil servants, focus on quality of character, vision, experience and other factors, and place less emphasis on political reliability or obedience.
- At an opportune moment, release a group of intellectuals who have been unfairly detained, unfairly arrested and unfairly convicted—for example, Memetjan Abdulla of the China National Radio Uighur service, or Xinjiang Economic Daily reporter Gheyret Niyaz (Niyaz, an intellectual who grew up in a military family, repeatedly tried to warn local authorities of the danger signs before the July 2009 violence in Urumqi). Releasing some of these individuals as a sign of goodwill would send a positive message to the Uighur community and help to allay some of its pessimism and frustration.
 The Shaoguan incident of June 25-26, 2009, was a violent dispute between Uighur and Han Chinese migrant workers at a toy factory in Shaoguan, Guangdong Province. The dispute began with allegations of the sexual assault of a Han Chinese woman, and escalated into a conflict in which at least two Uighurs were killed and hundreds injured (witness reports and casualty estimates vary.) The Shaoguan incident was likely a contributing factor to the July 2009 ethnic violence in Urumqi. – Translator
- My Ideals and the Career Path I Have Chosen, Ilham Tohti’s autobiographic essay.
- Ilham Tohti’s Statement after Receiving a Life Sentence for Allegedly “Separatist” Crimes, September 25, 2014.
- Ilham Tohti Says, September 17, 2014
- Excerpts from “My West China, Your East Turkestan” — My View on the Kunming Incident, by Wang Lixiong, March 3, 2014
Chinese original: 《伊力哈木：当前新疆民族问题的现状及建议》
(Tom is unable to post his piece at the moment. Yaxue substitutes.)
Xi Jinping created quite a stir with his recent trip to Guangdong province, which has been seen by many as a demonstration of his determination to continue with (economic) Reform and Opening up. On this trip he impressed many by proceeding in a much less flashy fashion than most expect from Chinese gov’t officials. While his recent promotion of waste-preventing guidelines and anti-corruption policies show a strong desire to limit these ills of the Party, there is little hope that these alone will make a difference.
Xi is right to focus on these issues early on in his leadership, as graft and abuse of power are widely seen as the biggest threats to the Party, but he fails to recognize that these are unavoidable consequences of the current political structure. As it stands in China, the flow of resources is still largely controlled by a massive bureaucratic system. This gives a large number of individuals power over very valuable, finite commodities; which provides them the opportunity to extract bribes and use their positions for their own personal benefit. Because these petty officials are only beholden to the Party, and not the people affected by their actions, there is little need for them to produce results that would help their communities (and the results they produce are generally in effort to further their own careers). Without massive reforms, corruption will continue to be major problem.
Furthermore, as we’ve seen time and again, China’s leaders are excellent at producing laws, edicts, speeches, and slogans; but are incapable of ensuring their enforcement. There is little reason to believe that Xi’s latest efforts will produce a different outcome than the dozens of similar speeches made during Hu Jintao’s time. The problem is that to date, anti-corruption efforts have relied heavily on gov’t investigators instead of public oversight. In reality, this is simply creating another opportunity for graft, as these investigators can use their power to extract bribes from other officials.
I believe that the current strategy of the Party is simply to present the appearance of a clean up. After all, if many people in China believe that the Communist Party of the 50’s and 60’s was incorruptible (even though officials feasted through Mao’s great famine), than it should be possible to convince them of this again while maintaining the “perks” of officialdom that produce the unquestioning loyalty that the Party requires of it servants.
Last week though an open letter to Xi Jinping outlined clear initiatives that could be taken if the Party was really serious about cleaning up corruption, instead of just giving the appearance of caring. Signed by 65 Chinese intellectuals, legal professionals, teachers, engineers, media professionals and people from other professions, the letter reads as follows:
“Corruption is a very serious social problem in China, as general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, Xi Jinping said on November 17, 2012, during a study session of the Political Bureau, “The problem of corruption is becoming increasingly severe, and could ultimately bring down the Party and the country.” On November 19, 2012, the head of the CPC Commission for Discipline Inspection, Wang Qishan, gave a speech in the meeting of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection and the Ministry of Supervision also stressing the importance of “steadfast opposition to corruption”.
But over the years, the anti-corruption slogans, campaign-style anti-corruption efforts have not been able to solve the increasingly serious problem of corruption. On July 11, 2010, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, the CPC Central Organization Department, the Ministry of Supervision jointly issued “Rules Regarding Cadres Reporting Personal Matters” that stipulate that cadres at and above the division level (处级, lower-middle level officials) must report personal income, real estate holdings, and investments of his/her own, as well as that of the spouse and children living with them.” But the information has not been made public, and did not work toward eradicating corruption.
The fundamental way to solve the problem of corruption is transparency. In 1766, in order to limit the power of the king, the Swedish Parliament enacted “freedom of the press,” which gave the Swedish citizens the right to access information about the property of all officials. Over 240 years, the official property declaration system has proven to be an effective weapon in fighting corruption, and many of the countries in the world have emulated it, including China’s Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao.
In the face of this grim situation, we demand that the official property publicity to be started from the top, not only because “high-level officials display better ideological and political quality, their job performance stands out, and they also enjoy a relatively high degree of respect by the masses,” but more importantly, because senior officials wield enormous public resources, and hold the power to affect the well-being of China’s 1.3 billion citizens.
During the 18th Party Congress, Shanghai Party Secretary Yu Zhengsheng said, as soon as the central authorities made the decision, he could easily make his information public, “because I do not have much property.” The same day, the Guangdong provincial party secretary Wang Yang said, answering questions about official property declarations, that Guangdong is implementing pilot official property declaration system, and will continue exploring it. During last year’s Two Meetings, the Xinjiang Autonomous Region Party Secretary Zhang Chunxian said that, if officials are to make public of their properties, he would be the first to do so. From these public statements, we see that the conditions are ripe for officials’ property holdings to be known to the public.
As prescribed in Article 41 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China, “Citizens of the People’s Republic of China have the right to put forward criticisms of, and suggestions for, anyone working in any state organ.” As citizens of the People’s Republic of China, we ask the 205 most senior officials of China, as listed below, set an example by publishing the income, real estate, investment and other holdings of their own, their spouses’ and their children’s to curb the corrupt behavior of officials from the source, and to build a better China.”
It seems as though Xi would benefit from the wisdom of his newly minted catch phrase, “empty talk harms the country,” as it stands, this trip to Guangdong is nothing more than another hollow gesture that is not substantially different than any of the anti-corruption measures that have come before. If he wants the country to benefit fully from the idea that “hard work prospers the nation,” his first step should be implementing a transparent system for reporting the wealth of officials.
A few months ago I wrote a post titled “There’s no bureaucracy like Chinese bureaucracy” that highlighted a few of the crazier experiences I’ve had with China’s love of hierarchy. Today though I wanted to look at one of the bigger problems with bureaucracy, not that it simply wastes time, but that having millions (literally) of officials with a little bit of status and a small amount of power can be an incredibly dangerous thing.
A recent study came to a rather unsurprising result, when people have power and a low status in the overall hierarchy, they tend to abuse it. For those of us living in China we see this daily in the way the chengguan beat street merchants, the way local gov’t officials wine and dine on the public dime, and even the ordeal a person is put through just to withdraw money from the bank. Joel from Chinahopelive has a great post about Chengguan being satisfied with merchants pretending not to be selling vegetables without a license, but any perceived slight was followed up harshly.
Some might argue that this abuse is actually a symptom of Chinese culture, that somehow pettiness is inherent. These people would argue that as long as there have been officials in China, they have been corrupt, so it must be the culture that promotes this persistent abuse of power. I don’t buy it, this kind of abuse happens in every country.
Instead I think these abuses of power stem from the organization of Chinese gov’t, which explains why they are persistent throughout Chinese history, and why they continue to expand despite efforts to reign them in. China’s gov’t has always seen itself as above the people. Like an omniscient parent, Beijing issues decrees on behalf of the people, without any meaningful input from the people effected by the new law. This system then relies on millions of low ranking officials to implement the new statute. At times it seems like each new law creates a new level of bureaucracy, like the smoking ban that would not be enforced by police or restaurant owners, but by some new entity.
By imbuing so many people with the power to punish those below them while enacting usually murky laws, it is not surprising that there are a myriad of problems at the lowest levels of gov’t (this is especially clear in the book Will the Boat Sink the Water?: The Life of China’s Peasants which I cannot recommend highly enough).
However Chinese culture could very well provide the remedy: shaming officials that use their power in malicious ways (or in ways that enrich themselves). Due to the idea of saving face, shame holds an incredible amount of power, especially when it is targeted effectively. In the previous decades the gov’t was able to appease the masses by simply punishing a handful of officials responsible for the most egregious abuses. Today, through the power of Weibo, a much larger group of officials is being scrutinized (which is making Beijing quite uncomfortable).
I’ve actually seen this in action first hand (although it comes from a somewhat disturbing tale). A teacher at a former school of mine was made to sing KTV with officials from the local police department, and after a night of resisting unwanted advances, felt used and dirty (she did manage to fend them off). The next morning she went to the head of the English department and quit, telling them they had hired her to be a teacher, not a prostitute. The school was located in a less than desirable town, and knew it wouldn’t be easy to replace the experienced teacher. It wasn’t long before the dean slightly increased the teacher’s salary and promised her she’d never be forced into another evening like the one she had experienced. Within a few weeks, several of the other young female teachers took similar stands.
Given that it’s highly unlikely that the Chinese gov’t would start reducing the number of officials, the best hope is for activists to begin taking back the power that these low level officials have been abusing.