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Crime & Corruption

Rule of law at any price on mainland China


Li Wangyang

Last week, Hunan provincial police announced they would launch a fresh probe into the suspicious death in hospital of June 4 activist Li Wangyang. The decision has apparently been prompted by the public outcry in Hong Kong where tens of thousands of people including prominent politicians and lawmakers called for an open and thorough investigation into his death.

The fact that the Hunan provincial police said the new probe would include criminal investigators signals that they would pursue the case as murder in a sharp contrast to the previous announcements by the lower-level authorities in Shaoyang that first said Li committed suicide, and later said his death was accidental.

While the latest development is cautiously welcomed in Hong Kong, it also highlights deeply worrisome lack of rule of law at grass-root levels across the country – the lower the authorities are, the worse the disregard for rule of law is.

Last year, the central government proudly claimed that the country had put into place a comprehensive socialist legal system after efforts of more than 30 years, a significant step towards the rule of law.

But the reality is that local officials pay scant attention to the rule of law as they try to protect their own interests or happily accept the bribes from the guilty to pervert the course of justice.

While Hong Kong people are awaiting the results of the latest investigation into Li’s death, the reports last week of two other outrageous cases involving the loss of human life have provided fresh evidence of how local officials could “treat human life as grass”, as the Chinese idiom goes.

The first case, widely reported on the mainland, in overseas media and in this newspaper, concerns Feng Jianmei, a 22-year-old woman in rural Shaanxi province who was abducted by family planning officials for three days and given an injection that killed her seven-month fetus. Details of the mother’s ordeal after the parents failed to pay a 40,000 yuan (HK$49,000) fine for having more than one child, plus photos of the dead baby, have appalled the country.

The provincial government admitted that it was “a serious violation” of family planning regulations and has suspended three officials from duty pending investigations.

It remains unclear if any of those officials will face criminal charges and even if they do, they are unlikely to face murder charges, as many mainlanders have called for, even though what they did was an outright murder.

In many parts of the mainland, family planning officials have turned the national policy into a money-making tool by imposing hefty fines to the tune of tens of thousands of yuan – equivalent to the total annual incomes of several years for an affected family in rural areas, and forced late-term abortions are not uncommon as they try to punish those families who cannot afford to pay. The blind activist Chen Guangcheng became the target of the persistent persecution by the officials in Shandong , partly because of his efforts to defend the rights of pregnant women against the lawless family planning officials.

The second case, which emerged in the official media over the past few days, is even more shocking. It concerns a rich tycoon in Shanxi who could easily use money and influence to get the local police and a hospital to issue false investigative reports and a death certificate to cover up the death of a prostitute.

Hao Jianxiu, a self-made businessman who has businesses from mining to hotels and is a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, reportedly spent 3.6 million yuan to bribe the local police and hospital to pervert the course of justice. According to media reports, he merely did this as a favour for another businessman who apparently had a drug and sex party with some prostitutes last month, one of whom, died on overdose.

The doctored reports suggested that the overdosed prostitute died alone and her body was cremated without notifying any of her family members. Hao and a dozen others involved in the case have been arrested.

Wang Xiangwei
South China Morning Post
 
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  1. Pingback: June 19 2012 China Daily Mail Headlines « Craig Hill - June 20, 2012

  2. Pingback: Rule of law a long way away « China Daily Mail - June 26, 2012

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