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Executions Can't Kill Off Corruption

Executions Can't Kill Off Corruption

By Teng Biao(滕彪), prominent lawyer and rights activist
July 19, 2011
Economic Observer Online

On July 19, Xu Maiyoung (许迈永) the former deputy mayor of Hangzhou and Jiang Renjie (姜人杰) the former deputy mayor of Suzhou were both executed.

More corrupt officials are executed in China than anywhere else in the world. Officials at all levels seem unafraid, and corruption persists - it seems the more we fight it, the worst the situation becomes. Are we executing too few corrupt officials or too many?

Strictly speaking, China doesn’t employ “justice”, but “politics” to deal with corrupt officials. Whether to punish or how to punish a corrupt official, to a great extent, is not the result of a legal process, but a product of political struggle.

The lack of official restraint, democratic elections and press freedom is the root cause of corruption. If bribes of 1,000 yuan were reported by the media, political careers could be brought to end without the need for prisons.

Public anger is understandable, but the death penalty is not a solution to corruption. Corruption is evil, but society also needs to take responsibility. Simply shooting people is equivalent to ignoring the complexity of crime and shirking responsibility

Original article: [Chinese]

Overturned Death Sentence Exposes Gap between the Public and China’s Legal Profession

By Xu Zhiyong (许志永), Chinese lawyer and activist 
July 14, 2011
Economic Observer Online

 Li Changkui (李昌奎) raped and killed a girl who lived in his village and then killed her 3-year-old brother. He was sentenced to death, but the sentence was commuted to a life sentence by the Supreme People’s Court of Yunnan on appeal.

 Many people are incensed by the decision. Li’s case was seen by many as being even more horrendous than that of Yao Jiaxin, a music student who was executed in early June after receiving a death sentence for stabbing to death a woman whom he had accidentally run over in his car in October 2010.

However, Tian Cheng, the deputy chief justice at the Yunnan Supreme People’s Court, has not only refused to acknowledge any mistake, he has been proudly claiming that in ten years time people will look back on this as a classic case. There appears to be a huge gap between the views of the judge and the public.

The conflicting views have much to do with the asymmetry of information between the two parties. The judge knows more about the case since he has heard both sides of the story from the prosecutor and the defendant. But the public is limited to information made available via the press or the Internet.

For instance, when Li’s crime was first disclosed, the public only knew that Li raped and killed a girl and then killed her three-year-old bother. They believed that the court must be crazy not to have executed him. Later, when they learned that the dead girl was his girlfriend, the attitude of the public began to change.

 Secondly, people have different understandings of the law. Judges know more about procedural justice, they are also much more experienced in the handling of cases. They also know that in the past courts have made unjust decisions because they were swayed by public opinion; this kind of knowledge is what makes them professionals.

Third, the court and the public have different understandings of what it actually means to execute someone. Many of the people who called for Yao Jiaxin to be put to death, may have had second thoughts when they saw images of Yao being led to the execution ground on TV.

However, the decision of the Yunnan Supreme Court is questionable on the grounds that it failed to clearly explain the grounds on which it was made. It is not enough to reduce Li’s sentence on the basis that he surrendered himself to the police. It also has to appeal to people’s common sense.

 These different views do not mean that the public is irrational. What I’m trying to say is that everyone has their professional specialization. The law professionals have more knowledge in legal affairs and are able to make more informed decisions than ordinary people. The basic problem is that we do not have an independent legal system and that judges, sadly, have become an insignificant cogs in a larger bureaucratic wheel.

 The reaction of the Yunnan judge to public opposition to his verdict does not appear to be an arrogant dismissal of the voice of the people, on the contrary, it sounds to me like a professional judge sticking to his principles against the odds.

Original article: [Chinese]




More of Us Should Take Part in Public Hearings 

By Sun Le (孙乐), an editor with Economic Observer Online
July 19, 2011
Economic Observer Online

Hu Litian (胡丽天) has become an overnight internet sensation after it was alleged that she was a “public hearing specialist” (听证专业户) who has made repeated appearances at various public hearings in Chengdu since 2004. Many now suspect that the elderly woman is nothing more than a government stooge who was being hand-picked to support the views of the government on various contentious issues, especially given the fact that she was randomly chosen to appear 19 times at various hearings.

 While a media storm raged over the allegations, one blogger argued that the reason Hu had been selected so many time is that so few people are willing to attend these public hearings. The author of the blog noted that “the hearing on proposed car restrictions required the participation of 8 people and only 9 people registered to take part; another hearing convened to discuss parking fees asked for 11 participants and only 7 people signed up. The time they had 173 people register to take part in a hearing, she didn’t make the cut.”

 The people who suspected Hu of being a government stooge should actually be a little ashamed of themselves. Though many doubt the fairness of these public hearings, how many of us are actually willing, like her, to go and take part?

 Have we forgotten that rights are not something that we simply lands in our laps but rather something that the people have to strive for by struggling with the government and other interest groups? If we are reluctant to try, but give up our rights so easily, then there is no use complaining that others don’t respect our rights.

 All our rights flow from the right of free expression. We all need to be a bit more like Hu Litian. If everyone actively stood up for the interests of regular citizens and expressed our own views, then these public hearings would no longer simply be held for show.

 In the wake of this “public hearing specialist” controversy, government departments should also re-think their approach. The scandal says more about the public’s trust in government rather than individuals like Hu Litian. People should actively take part in social affairs and the government should provide more channels to develop a democratic society.

Original article: [Chinese]

Time to Deal With Rural Credit Cooperatives
By Zhang Huaqiao (张化桥), chairman of the Guangzhou Wanhui Microcredit Company
July 19, 2011
Economic Observer Online

China’s rural credit cooperatives (中国农村信用社) are in a sorry state; racked by frequent bankruptcies and in terminal decline.

Sixty years ago, every peasant was made to pay three yuan for a share, which seemed fair. In 1985, the rural credit cooperatives had accumulated so much debt that every peasant was required to invest three more yuan to save the dying cooperatives.

Most rural credit cooperatives have negative value. After holding their shares for decades, the peasants have been left with nothing but debts. Few of them received any credit support from the cooperatives.

Since every peasant’s holdings are equally tiny, there are no real stakeholders. Nobody cares how the rural credit cooperatives operate. Officials in rural areas control the rural credit cooperatives, but they don’t care about them since they’re not shareholders. From party secretaries to town mayors and employees, they collude and make shady loans.

If we want rural credit cooperatives to function effectively, three things are necessary: competition among cooperatives, powerful shareholders who care about profitability and less regulation from the government.

Original article: [Chinese]


Thank you, Chairman Han
By Zhan Jiang (展江), a Professor in the Department of International Journalism & Communication at Beijing Foreign Studies University
July 19, 2011
Economic Observer Online

At 10:49am yesterday, Qian Gang (钱钢) wrote on his Sina Microblog account: “I’m shocked to learn that the investigative team at China Economic Times led by Wang Keqin (王克勤) has been ‘dismantled’ this morning. This needs urgent attention!” By 4:49 in the afternoon, this post had been re-posted close to 3,000 times, and had drawn some 1,200 comments. Opinion was overwhelmingly in support of Wang Keqin and his colleagues. These orders will, I’m afraid, draw a reaction those responsible never anticipated.

 In fact, I seriously question whether the newspaper officials who made this decision are actually people of the 21st century, or media people [of the 21st century]. Naturally, some web users have already ferreted out the fact that the present chairman of China Economic Times, Mr. Han (韩社长), only stepped into his position a year ago. He has a background in publishing, having formerly been the general manager of Longmen Books, known as a publisher of children’s educational materials. In May last year, Bao Yueyang (包月阳) was replaced by Han as editor-in-chief and chairman of China Economic Times. Whatever else can be said, Chairman Han is a media man in a management sense — but in terms of his ideas, he is perhaps not.

 As I wrote on my microblog, the breakup of Wang Keqin’s investigative team is not something intended by the high-level leadership. It should be understood as the intention of a handful of ignorant and incompetent people at the top of the newspaper. High-level leaders have voiced approval of the work Wang Keqin has done in recent years to uphold the public interest. They have at the very least not singled him out for trouble. Wang Keqin has worked as an investigative reporter in Beijing for more than 10 years now, and from his seminal work on taxi cartels in Beijing to today he has never been targeted with a libel suit, and the factual nature of his reporting has never been questioned.

 Reporters have called to ask me about the state of investigative reporting in China and the predicament it faces. I respond that we should avoid this word “predicament.” And for this reason, I encourage against reading too much into this latest development, understanding it as necessarily a reflection of the worsening state of investigative reporting, or a sign that forces outside the paper have agitated against Wang Keqin. This should not in fact be the case. We should recognize that we’ve lately seen an upsurge in investigative reporting in many media, in financial media and commercial newspapers, and even at China Central Television, including such recent cases as tainted pork in China, and just this month revelations of counterfeit products by DaVinci furniture.

 Not long ago, a very well-known artist went to visit Wang Keqin at the newspaper, and said he wanted to join his investigative team. Wang Keqin laughed and said: “The monthly wage is 1,700 yuan. is that OK?” Of course, as a veteran reporter, and as the head of a team, Wang’s salary is a bit higher than younger colleagues. But all told, he makes no more than 3,000 yuan a month, and that at 47 years of age. He has been unable to buy a house in Beijing, and among China’s famous journalists he is no doubt the poorest.

 I remember three months back talking with the head of a magazine in Guangzhou about my positive view of the state of investigative reporting in China right now. I happened to mention that Wang Keqin made about 2,700 yuan a month, and this old press person said: “What? What? What did you just say? 2,700 yuan a month?” “That’s right,” I said calmly. But I know that many people have difficulty believing this is true.

 I know it’s his values, and not material support, that have sustained Wang Keqin up to the present day, even though it is said that “without money nothing is possible.”

 When friends say that being a journalist is a dangerous road, I respond that, given the chance, I will still choose to be a journalist in the next life. Because Wang Keqin and others like him have made China a more transparent place, and they have transformed the values of our people. In a significant sense, they have taken us from a culture of propaganda and exultation (歌颂型文化) to a culture of criticism (批判性文化). Therefore, I suspect that the changes Wang Keqin is now experiencing might bring him an opportunity for fairer pay and greater comfort. If that’s the case, then I suppose we have Chairman Hang to thank.

 This is an extended extract from a fuller translation that was published on the China Media Project website on Jul 19 – you can read the longer version here.

Original article: [Chinese]

Awards for Paying Nominees
By Ni Bidong (倪壁东), a journalist with the EO’s Eastern China Bureau
July 20, 2011
Economic Observer Online

On July 17, the host of China’s “Pillar of the Nation” (中华脊梁) award admitted that anyone who wanted to be considered for the award had to pay 9,800 yuan. 

Such awards are organized purely in order to generate profit. The award-giving institutions are attached to government departments, such as the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (SASAC). They host the awards and attract celebrities who are prepared to pay in order to improve their reputation.

It’s a win-win situation for the award organizers and the celebrities, but not the public, who are deceived.

The award process confers a false respectability on the winners, who then demand higher fees from their customers.

Public trust and public reputation are like water and air. The effect of abuse is the same pollution - it's hard to repair the damage afterwards.

Original article: [Chinese]

Government Needs More Intimate Approach to Public Communications

By Yi Beiwang, an media professional

Economic Observer, Nation section page 16

 Since the public tends to ignore official statistics the government might do well to follow the example of former American president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, who held “fireside chats”.

Judging by the statistics, the future seems bright - fiscal revenue for June reached 1.006 trillion yuan, 218 billion yuan more than a year earlier - but many people commenting online curse these statistics. It’s odd that the public should be outraged by the official statistics.

In order to change the current situation, the government could hold its own version of Roosevelt’s fireside chats. It would be a chance for the government to explain its policies in simple terms.

This is neither a politics show nor propaganda. It would help to clear up people’s confusion.

Original article:[Chinese]

Improving the Legal Framework For Private Lenders

 By Ma Guanyuan (马关远), PH.D. in Economics  

Observer, page 48

Average incomes in the Inner Mongolian mining city of Ordos are among the highest in China.

Most of the city’s accumulated wealth is invested in real estate. Four fifths of the financing for property development in the city is from private lenders, not banks.

According to official research, more than 100 billion yuan is currently lent out in this way in Ordos, with the loans carry monthly interest rates of around 2% to 3%。

There is huge risk in property markets that are financed by private loans. Ordos’ private lending system is not as well developed as in Jiangsu and Zhejiang. The credit risk is huge.

Although Ordos' local economy is fast developing, its financial institutions are relatively primitive. On the other hand, private lending, which provides funds for the development of local economy, still lacks legal status.

No nation can become a developed country with such a weak financial industry.  Financial decision makers should consider making Ordos a pilot city to experiment with a legal framework for private funding legalized and a more open financial industry.

Original article:[Chinese]

Links and Sources

Sohu: Image of Li Changkui case

tfol.com: Image of Hu Litian

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