The Choice is Whether To Let Corrupt Officials Die Or Let The People Die
CHINA — On the eve of December 6, 2005, in Shanwei city, Guangdong province, several thousand soldiers and riot police massacred protesting villagers in Dongzhou town with rifles and tanks. The Xinhua News Agency, Beijing's official mouthpiece, did not report the incident until December 10, and indicated that “a few people incited a severe illegal incident, beating, damaging and burning…,” and claimed that only three persons were accidentally killed, and eight persons mistakenly injured. But, according to local witnesses, dozens of people were shot dead.
The Xinhua News Agency also claimed that the ground commander who issued the order to fire on the villagers has been detained under criminal charges, but refused to disclose the person's name or identity. According to the mainland investigative Hong Kong newspaper, Takungpao, the ground commander is currently in detention, and is Wu Sheng, the Deputy Director of the Shanwei Municipal Public Security Bureau. Does a small city's deputy security bureau director have the authority to command several thousand armed troops with tanks ,and police, to open fire on innocent civilians?
The following is an exclusive interview with China issues expert, Dr. Cheng Xiaonong, the Editor-in-chief of Contemporary China History Studies magazine. He shared his understanding about the background of the incident and offered The Epoch Times an in depth analysis.
The Severity of the Shanwei Shooting Incident
Journalist: Many media say that in the Shanwei incident, the Chinese Communist Party once again used soldiers and tanks to kill its own people, much like the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre. Would you share your opinion?
Dr. Cheng: The severity of the incident has several aspects; first, the authority mobilized heavy military arms, notably tanks, and more than one. This is really serious, in other words, the army has been involved in this situation. Because armed police have no tanks, only military fighting units use tanks; second, the Shanwai shooting incident is a cooperative effort of the army and police, which killed many people. We still have no idea of the exact number killed, because of the strict information blockage. From these two points, we know that the government authority has made up its mind to deal with the “uprising” at any cost, and the severity surpassed past incidents.
Because of a land acquisition dispute, especially the distribution of sales proceeds after the land was sold, it implied that many corrupt officials were involved, and there are too many cases like this one. The Taishi village incident also occurred in Guangdong province not long ago. Why are local governments so brutal? Why must they use violence, even employing the use of heavy military arms to crack down on their own people? What villager has a single piece of steel at hand to defend himself? I think it is the problem of the government turning into a corrupt gangster.
The local government system has become corrupt. This systemic corruption is at all levels of government from village to county, towns and even cities are corrupted. If one of them falls, the whole bunch of them will fall. It actually becomes a problem of whether to let corrupt officials die or let the people die. At this time, the real character of the communist government is blatantly visible. It is an autocratic government, it spares no effort to achieve its goals, it can kill, and this response is the same as the Tiananmen Massacre; in order to protect bureaucratic interests, it can use any military equipment, and its vile nature is fully exposed to the world's people.
Ground Commander Is Only the Scapegoat
Journalist: The communist government reports that the ground commander is in detention. According to mainland investigative Hong Kong media, he is the deputy security bureau director. What is your opinion?
Dr. Cheng: It shows that even the communists admit that this is an inappropriate action. They knew that tanks should not be used on farmers, because farmers are not armed. Anyone knows the government can not provide a defensible answer when it comes to this point. So the leaders in Shanwei city and Guangdong province also know that they need to find a scapegoat. They sacrificed the deputy security bureau director, in order to protect the more corrupt officials. There is a complicated network of collusion among those corrupt officials.
It is very possible that the deputy security bureau director had little to do with the land acquisition corruption cases, therefore he cannot reveal too much, so he became the scapegoat. It is also possible that local officials have promised him something like, “we'll arrest you first, you carry the responsibility for us, when the incident has settled down, we will get you out.” You can find this kind of charade everywhere in China. It means that the local government has no regrets about this incident, so they arrest a deputy security bureau director.
Who Gave the Command To Open Fire?
Journalist: According to the information from villagers, some villagers were even hunted down and killed. Do you believe that a deputy security bureau director has the authority to open fire?
Dr. Cheng: I want to address several points here; first, as a county level deputy security bureau director, he could only control several pieces of police equipment, usually limited to police pistols. A police station will generally not be equipped with arms like rifles. From this point of view, the armed police who surrounded the Dongzhou village, were not mobilized by the deputy security bureau director. The mobilization of armed police and tanks should be from higher level officials, above the county level. It is very possible that the military force was temporarily transferred from a nearby garrison.
Even though the deputy security bureau director is a ground commander, I do not believe he dared to give the order to open fire without an upper level authority's command and guaranty. The responsibility should be carried by the Shanwei Municipal Party Committee, and Guangdong Provincial Party Committee. In the Shanwei shooting incident, the Guangdong Provincial Party Committee cannot shake its responsibility by as simple an answer as “I don't know.” This is especially the case since the Taishi village incident also happened in Guangdong recently, and triggered a severe backlash. The Shanwei Municipal government should have asked for instructions from the Guangdong Provincial Party Committee to commence a crack down on villagers with tanks, and would have obtained permission before proceeding.
I believe that the real issue considered by the Guangdong Provincial Party Committee is how to block the information. In other words, the villagers have been attacked, and the truth was also covered up, the only thing they regretted is that the incident was exposed and they cannot cover it up anymore. Until now, the Guangdong Provincial Government has neither apologized for this violent crack down, nor admitted its mistake, this is actually the problem.
Government and People are as Incompatible as Fire and Water
Reporter: From the Taishi Village incident to the Shanwei shooting incident, all are associated with land disputes. Why are these kinds of cases happening in Guangdong more than elsewhere?
Cheng Xiaonong: The national economic and government situation is actually not good in China today. In normal economic development, local officials do not have an opportunity to make personal profit out of land sales. Land transactions in China are the major means for officials to personally profit. In a land transaction, the local officials can illegally claim a farmer's land, sell the land to the government for the development of public facilities or sell to it to foreign corporations. Officials at various levels of government conspire together, pocket most of the proceeds and split it among themselves, paying little or nothing to the farmers.
This situation happens everywhere, not only in Guangdong, but these conflicts have been more severe in Guangdong. There are more immigrants from other provinces in Guangdong, the local villagers are more able to exchange information with overseas friends and media, some villagers own mobile phones which enables them to send text messages outside of the country, therefore it is difficult for the local officials to completely block information from leaking out. Also, the appetite of Guangdong's corrupt officials is much bigger, tens or hundreds of thousands yuan are too little for them, hence these officials are especially ruthless. Usually corrupt officials try to embezzle enough money in a single transaction to move to other locations, like Shanghai, Qingdao, or Dalian to hide, or simply escape abroad.
Farmers' lands were originally used to support their families, generation after generation. Now as they lose their land to corrupt officials, it literally dooms them to death, they have no means to support their families and thus they have no choice, but to rise up and furiously rebel. But in any case, it is the people who are to be suppressed, even when they protest, the most they can do is to ask for mercy from the local government authority. Therefore, whenever conflicts happen, it is the local authority that lays waste the common people, this is without a doubt.
The fact that these kinds of conflicts occur so frequently reveals a very deep problem. Local government and the common people are as incompatible as fire and water. The local government has already become the people's enemy. This situation is happening in most provinces and major cities in China today.
Why Does the Central Government Take Sides with Corrupt Officials?
Reporter: Many villagers had hoped that the central government's authorities would do them justice, but Beijing's official mouthpiece Xinhua News Agency, reported the villagers as violent “mobs.” This clearly indicates that the central authority's and the local authority's positions are one and the same.
Cheng Xiaonong: If the central authorities did not go along with the local officials, an overwhelming number of Guangdong officials would be replaced. But for the central authorities to stay in power, the support that they rely on is not from the common people, but from the local officials' suppression of the common people. This means the foundation of the central authority is not the common people, but the corrupt officials. Therefore, when conflicts arise between corrupt officials and the common people, the central authorities will invariably side with corrupt local officials. The Taishi Village incident was like this, I believe the same situation will continue to happen, and the outcome of future events will also remain the same.
The Chinese people must learn to think independently and make their own judgment. There are still too many Chinese not willing to change their old ways of thinking. They continue to trust the government. When they lost trust in the local government, they placed their hope in the central government; when the central government lies to them, they chose to blame the individual officials. Few look at these local problems as a national problem. The day they do, their views of the present and the future China will be in a completely different light.
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