Wen Can We Expect the Real Apology?

October 23, 2008 Updated: October 1, 2015

Parents and their baby leave a children's hospital in Beijing on October 16, 2008. Lawyers for victims of China's tainted milk scandal said the government had warned them not to sue.  (Frederic J Brown/AFP/Getty Images)
Parents and their baby leave a children's hospital in Beijing on October 16, 2008. Lawyers for victims of China's tainted milk scandal said the government had warned them not to sue. (Frederic J Brown/AFP/Getty Images)
Chinese leader Wen Jiabao delivered a not-so-sincere apology this week, saying the government is partially to blame for the tainted milk crisis that has seen more than 50,000 children hospitalised.

Lacking in any detail as to where the government went wrong and what steps it would take to correct the matter, Wen's vague statement to Science Magazine this week that the government fell short in “supervision and management” and would take “deep lessons” from the incident rings hollow.

The word “sorry”, without action, is a self-serving gesture designed to minimise the harmful effects of the apologist's mistakes. It's uttered by the abusive husband, missing the smiles and affection that come naturally in a normal home, to his terrified wife who knows it will all happen again. It could be uttered by a mining company that has destroyed an entire river system in order to grease the wheels for their next, equally destructive development.

In this case, Wen's apology is simply to preserve the government's image amidst public anger over the tainted milk scandal, without any stated obligation to take concrete action.

Wen makes an apology for not “supervising” well enough. It's a hard apology to relate to in democracies, where governments allow its citizens to supervise themselves. People are allowed to form independent advocacy and watchdog organisations. They're allowed to band together into trade unions. They're allowed to organise public forums and run independent media outlets. They're even allowed to form political parties and compete to become the government themselves.

But that's not how things happen in China. The parasitic Communist Party, which cares about its own survival above all else, latches onto every organ in Chinese society and prevents each from functioning properly. The media was blacked out, and the news closely censored to remove any suggestion that the Communist Party has done anything wrong.

It was the party that decided who was responsible (the farmers, corrupt local officials), and the scapegoats were given no forum to explain themselves. There are no independent organisations to speak up for them.
There is no opposition. Would any meaningful discussion of a state railway network reach the public domain if there was no opposition, and the media weren't allowed to say anything that would make the State Government look bad?

It is inconceivable to the CCP that a government doesn't have to control the ingredients of every public pie, in order for it to taste good. By insisting on absolute dictatorship and displaying paranoia over any movement independent of government control, the Communist Party maintains the very system that allows scandal after scandal to take place.

It's a system where the world's most populated country is controlled by a handful of officials with no obligation to explain themselves to the public. It's a system where public discussion is stifled by totalitarian paranoia. And it's a system exacerbated by the many skeletons in the closet, 80 million by some estimates. Implicated Party officials have many reasons to fear an uncensored, open public
discussion of China's present and recent past, that could well land them in court for crimes against humanity.

What a stressful way to live! Its no wonder Hu and Wen never smile. The Communist Party runs a police state where telephones, internet and the media are monitored, yet Wen is apologising for not watching over the people enough? If that means, then, that the solution would be even tighter control, it's an apology that many Chinese will be reluctant to accept.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Don Robertson
Don Robertson