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China: Writings on the walls

Back in the day, big character posters were mostly used for vile purposes, so when they started popping up recently on shop fronts in a remote corner of China's Yunnan province, it's no surprise mention was made at major Chinese forum Tianya. From Tianya blogger Big Reporter (大记者):


Shilin County, Yunnan province's shocking “big character posters“.


On the morning of October 22, a finely-printed poster appeared on the doors of many workplaces of Yunnan province's Shilin Yi minority autonomous region county seat which the big flashy title, “Ten Questions for Liu Wenwei”.
Yunnan province's Shilin Yi minority autonomous region county seat is home to the world-famous Karst region, as well as the famous Ashima‘s hometown. Established as a Yi minority autonomous region in 1956, the region decided to hold a grand celebration at the end of this year. Accompanying the “county celebration’ is a work project aimed at improving the entire county's scenic structures.


The Liu Wenwei referred to in the “big character poster” is Shilin County's Party Secretary; he's also the organizer of this “City Improvement,” which will see all the streetside buildings renovated, an idea he came up with. He's also the commander-in-chief of the project.
According to this journalist's investigation, this project will see all buildings in Shilin county and surrounding scenic areas completely repainted, with ornamental images added, giving the city a brand new look in preparation for the fifty years anniversary. The entire project is planned to cost RMB 20,390,000, but the workplaces involved will all need to foot a fixed portion of the work project costs, like the Singapore-China jointly invested Shilin Grand Hotel, which will require RMB 638,400 in construction costs.


Another way of understanding this, Shilin county's fiscal income for 2005 was only RMB 170 million, their economy mainstay is in tourism and curing tobacco; there is no industry. In some of the villages and towns, life remains at the poverty line and below. Written on the “big character poster” were ten questions in total, four of which were aimed at the ‘City Style Improvement Project”. The other questions, aside from demand to know what, particularly that of use, that Liu Wenwei has done to give the Shilin villagers, and all regard the fate of the mass of the villagers’ lives.


At around nine in the morning the City Style Improvement Project work team received a notice to stop all work and stand by.
Before the “big character poster appeared, the Shilin residents had seen the cows and horses painted on the buildings and helplessly said, Shilin is re-enacting Strange Stories. The county became a ghost town. After seeing the “big character poster”, most residents began talking; some of the business owners decided to close shop and go on strike, to protest Liu Wenwei's disregard for reality with his extravagant work project.
This reporter went to interview the country secretary, but the security guards said he was in the middle of an urgent meeting, and not accepting interviews. This reporter phoned Liu Wenwei's mobile phone, but it was closed all along.
At around eleven a.m., the county improvement work resumed.

Grassroots blog aggregator Bullog is expanding its focus, according to a post today from founder Luo Yonghao (罗永浩):


Important Notice


Starting tomorrow, the coolest contemporary Chinese novelist, my literary world idol and the man who once brilliantly pointed out that ‘all living things live to screw Japan’ [a play on the Chinese for Japan and ‘all living things depend on the sun’], teacher Feng Tang[zh] will publish the third part of his as yet unfinished novel ‘The All Living Things Trilogy’, ‘Beijing, Beijing’ on Bullog. Teacher Feng Tang will publish one chapter each week, publishing as he writes.


Reading novels on the computer screen is quite painful, but this time it's a Feng Tang novel; Bullog readers are quite lucky.


For Feng Tang's autobiography, see here [zh]:

Another new addition to the growing list of bloggers featured at Bullog is high-profile academic and sexologist, Li Yinhe. Here are two of her posts this week:


I can't believe this is for real


Today I saw some news on the internet: one high school student in Shanghai received a zero on their university entrance exam for writing a same-sex love story composition. I saw the composition, it's not bad. How could it be worth zero points? I can't believe this is for real. If things like this really do happen, this suggests too many problems:


1. The severe degree of homophobia in society.
2. The principles of scoring university entrance examinations: should rating a composition be based on a language standard, aptitude for thinking or set of values?
3. If a marker relies on a personal set of values or the not necessarily correct set of values of the majority in grading, should the reception of an unfair grade be investigated? Is there a fair mechanism for judging mistakes in grading? Does the person graded unfairly have the option of appeal? It seems the person involved here did not have the option to file an appeal.
4. Can discrimination against minorities be dealt with by looking into legal liability? In an anti-discriminatory society, this kind of openly discriminatory behavior would result in a legal investigation, to prevent it from occuring again.

We do not now have these kinds of anti-discrimination laws, and cannot prevent this kind of typical discrimination from recurring. The rights of minorities also have no means of protection. People with a sense of justice, with conscience ought to stand up and oppose this kind of open discrimination, improve our citizens’ character, protect and unite minorities and construct a harmonious society.

While things like this still happen in China without the resulting fury that would be seen in many other countries, strides are still being made in taking a soft and patient approach as seen in Yi's follow-up post with the news that students in Southern China have started up the first campus queer group in the country:


Celebrate the forming of the country's first same-sex association


I learned today from a journalist in Guangzhou that the country's first same-sex association has been formed and successfully registered at Sun Yat-sen University. This really is something worth celebrating, a milestone, a historical step. They are creating history. The significance of their act is great.
At present, that minorities deserve respect and not discrimination has already become the consensus of all the world's civilized countries, as well as the consensus of the intelligentsia. China is thus moving towards civility one step at a time, and society is thusly becoming nicer bit by bit.

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