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Commentary Wrap: Watermelon Vendor, Weibo Accusations and Rape Remarks

July 19, 2013
Translated by Siu Tan, Luo Shuqi and Stella Yip

Editors from the EO's Chinese website publish a daily collection of extracts from commentary pieces on topical issues that appear in the mainland press alongside reactions on Sina Weibo. Every Friday, the EO's English team translates a selection of these opinion pieces.

Watermelon Vendor Dies Following Altercation with Chengguan

Background: At 10am on July 17, news began to spread on social media that a watermelon vendor in Lingwu county of Hunan Province had been beaten to death by Chengguan (城管), urban management officials employed to deal with low-level crime and disorder in China. According to an official announcement released by authorities in Lingwu, during a conflict with the vendor, he "suddenly fell to the ground and died."


A few chengguan equate the enforcement of law with the presentation of violence and mistakenly believe that only through the act of violence can one display his authority. However, law enforcement does not depend on violence, but on the roles that the enforcers play in the society.
Economic Observer [Chinese]

We hope that the local governments investigate the incident and publish the results as soon as possible. The government should also launch an accountability system to accommodate the demand from the public to supervise chengguan. The death of the farmer signals the diseased law enforcement, the remedy of which is to guarantee the equality of the two parties.
Beijing News [Chinese]

Chengguan themselves are actually in an awkward position, because they are now required to directly deal with many issues that were previously the responsibility of other departments. Conflicts seem unavoidable. To resolve the problem, instead of expanding the authority of chengguan as has been suggested by others, governments should enact laws and regulations to standardize the procedure of law enforcement.
Guangzhou Daily [Chinese]

The power of chengguan should be restricted and standardized. The more powerful that chengguan become, the more outrageous they get.
Youth Times [Chinese]

Uproar Over Professor's Remarks on Rape

Background: Yi Yanyou (易延友), a professor at Tsinghua University's Law School, posted a remark about a high-profile case of alleged gang rape to his Weibo account this week. Yi argued that raping a hostess is less harmful than raping a "gentle woman". The professor was criticized harshly on the Internet. One day later, Yi deleted his post and apologized to the public.


The problem was not about Yi's opinion itself, it was about how to stay independent and express ideas freely under public pressure. Most people might think the rape case as a matter of humanity and dignity. Their emotions and sympathies would not allow anyone to deny the crime. There is a big disagreement between scholars who believed in freedom of speech and the public who believed in truth and facts. The relationship between them is very intense.
Economic Observer [Chinese]

The disagreement between Internet users and Professor Yi was only the appearance of the problem. The fundamental differences needed to be specified to this individual rape case. Given that the case he was discussing involves a "second-generation rich" (富二代), any attempt to defend him will be criticized by the majority. In this case, Yi became a target of most people on the Internet.
Southern Metropolis Daily [Chinese]

Journalist Makes Allegations of Corruption Against Executives at Major SOE

Background: A senior journalist with Economic Information Daily posted to his personal Sina Weibo account allegations that the chairman of China Resources oversaw the losses of billions of yuan worth of state assets when the company paid too much for an acquisition target.


The increasing number of real-name reporting may bring a potential risk to our society. Normally, whistleblowers could choose to report corruption to local officials instead of publishing it in the media. However, according to past experience, noting ever really happened when accusations were passed to local government authorities. Therefore, despite the dangers, some responsible citizens chose to make their allegations public via the media or online. They wanted to attract the public's attention, and push the investigation process with the help from the media.
Xiandai Jinbao [Chinese]

We think it's better to publicize journalistic activities of reporters through the media they work for and take Weibo as a complementary platform. Media need to support their reporters in conducting investigative journalism. Cases where journalists are active on social media sites while the media outlets they work for remain silent should be avoided. The current situation is that some media are too cautious to tackle their responsibilities, while their reporters want to do their jobs and uncover scandals. This results in some journalists resorting to the Internet..
Global Times [Chinese] and [English]

"Petitioner Mother" Tang Hui Wins Appeal

Background: On July 15, the Hunan Provincial Higher People's court overturned an earlier decision by a lower court and awarded compensation to Tang Hui, a woman who has come to be referred to as the "Petitioner Mother" in Chinese media. Last year Tang was sent to a labor camp after repeatedly protesting against what she considered to be the lenient sentences handed down to the people involved in the rape and kidnapping of her daughter. The high-profile case has sparked debate about reform of the controversial labor-camp system in China. The court ordered the Yongzhou municipal re-education through labor commission to offer about 3,000 yuan to Tang in compensation for infringing on her personal freedom and inflicting mental distress. The high court also did not demand the Yongzhou government issue a written apology for Tang as she had requested.


It's already become commonly accepted that we "shouldn't deal with petitioners via re-education through labor". There are currently talk that there has been a halt to new re-education through labor sentences and things might be changing. The symbolic meaning of Tang Hui's case is that it erects another roadsign along the path to the reform of the re-education through labor sytem.
Beijing News [Chinese]

It is easy for individual to return to normal but it is more difficult for society. Because once an individual citizen has had their case handled fairly, we still have to deal with question of whether the re-education through labor system should continues to exist. No matter how humble or restrained public authority becomes, the difficult question of how to resolve social tensions in a calm and rational way. The Tang Hui incident is perhaps just a starting point on this road.
Southern Metropolis Daily [Chinese]


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