When news came late last month of the sacking of Shanghai Party Secretary Chen Liangyu on corruption charges, there was little sign of dissenting opinion in China’s domestic media. All news reports and commentary were carefully controlled. But in a Page 2 editorial today, purportedly written by a newspaper reader, Southern Metropolis Daily asked slightly tougher questions about the Chen Liangyu case and its relationship to larger questions of governance and public opinion in China:
Letter to the Editor
Southern Metropolis Daily
October 6, 2006
The big news of last month should have be the uncovering of a corrupt official at the highest levels. On the day the news came of this official’s removal, I, the humble Mr. Li, searched tens of thousands of Web pages. What I, the humble Mr. Li, found were all positive reports about Chen, singing his praises. Only when I clicked “most recent news on Chen Liangyu” did I find news of his removal.
On the Xinhua News Agency website [xinhuanet.com.cn] there were more than 10,000 postings for the news of the high official’s fall. If these comments were really from the hands of ordinary Web users, they might be said to be the seething of popular opinion. Those postings that could make it onto the site all voiced the same message, primarily that “Chen Liangyu’s removal from office gave satisfaction to the general population”. Judging from their language those making comments felt intense anger at Chen. But what is harder to understand is where exactly this popular opinion was before Chen Liangyu was removed from office? When you search for news about him before his removal, absolutely everything is positive, everything sings his praise! I, the humble Mr. Li, am not suggesting I don’t believe Chen Liangyu wasn’t corrupt. What I wonder about is of those officials now in their posts singing hymns of anti-corruption, how many are actually clean? Mr. Li feels saddened by this suppression of popular opinion.
Another form of opinion [on the Internet] is of the “Long Live!” variety. But the way I see it, even though ordinary people can cure their diseases, get educations, purchase homes, get jobs, earn their pensions, all of this should just be the basic responsibility of leaders. With the burden of “The Four Mountains” [living space, education, healthcare, pensions], and given how tough it is to find a job, why should we have to cry out “Long Live!”?
As Mid-Autumn arrives, the humble Mr. Li would like to go off on his own spiel:
In the city in which the humble Mr. Li lives, we refer to our leaders, big and small, as “Spring and Autumn Officials”. “Spring and Autumn” refers to the Spring and Mid-Autumn Festivals! [At these times] companies big and small are busy giving out “gifts of regard” [money or gifts to officials]. This is about building up personal connections rather than just working! What more can we possibly say?
(This column reflects only the personal views of the writer)
[Posted by David Bandurski, October 6, 2006, 12:32pm]