It was not a holiday or a vacation, and yet classes were suspended for more than 10,000 students in Shucheng County, Anhui Province, on April 26 and 27. Why? Because Shucheng was holding an official conference attended by around 400 party leaders. The deputy county chief of Shucheng explained that the decision had been made in order to avoid traffic congestion.

We hear about this kind of thing all the time, and have witnessed it ourselves — how the way is cleared for our leaders at the expense of the rest of us. It has become routine for us, the little people, to bow aside whenever our leaders set foot into the world.

However, suspending classes because leadership meetings are being held is apparently something rather fresh and new. A county-level city receives visits from 400 leaders and traffic is suspended, so that 10,000 primary, secondary and kindergarten students must yield and stay at home.

What I’d really like to know is what the rest of the citizens of Shucheng endured for those two days. Were they also told to stay at home and avoid going outdoors? I imagine the police “cleared the way” wherever official motorcades were expected to pass.

For any person of normal intelligence, of course, this official explanation about avoiding traffic congestion is a basic deception. Even outright idiots would see right through it. A county-level city with 10,000 students should have something in the area of fifty or sixty thousand residents. And even if there were real concerns about traffic congestion, it would make much more sense to transport leaders when classes are in session. If the danger of congestion really requires a compromise, then the leaders should yield to the students. Why should more than 10,000 people yield to just 400?

We see that these leaders and cadres, known as public servants (公仆), can suspend school for an entire county just for the sake of a meeting. They don’t see themselves as public servants, in fact, but have always set themselves up as masters. For their own convenience, these masters can make ordinary citizens under their jurisdiction do anything that pleases them. They don’t have the least bit of scruples.

The general practice around the world is that matters concerning our children are major matters. The smooth and normal operation of our schools cannot be disturbed at will. This is more like an article of faith than a mere rule of practice. This was also a firmly held conviction in ancient China. Throughout the dynasties, local officials were prevented from meddling with the operation of schools. No official could flaunt his authority around the schools, and I’ve never heard of any ancient case where visits from imperial officials resulted in the suspension of classes.

In some places in our country, the air is suffocatingly thick with this hat-tipping to officials, to the point that entire communities revolve around the movements of officials. The familiar party slogan “serving the people” (为人民服务) has become instead “serving our leaders.” The notion of “everything for the masses” (一切为了群众), and “everything for the children” (一切为了孩子), has become “everything for our leaders.”

We bend over backwards to ensure that our leaders are convenienced and comfortable, even if it means that 10,000 children cannot attend classes and the normal order of their studies is upset.

This idea of slavishly accommodating our leaders is not something we see in Shucheng alone. But Shucheng seems to be in a league of its own in treating its children and citizens like weeds.

Just imagine, if the issue at hand were the safety of party leaders, what sort of feats they would be capable of.