China: Disgraced Party member promoted?

Last autumn, Qin Zhongfei, a low-ranking civil servant in Pengshui County of mid-western China's Chongqing Municipality, wove some sarcastic political humor into a poem and sent it out to a few dozen friends via text and instant message.

Charged with slander by then County Party Secretary Lan Qinghua, one of several political leaders mentioned in the poem, Qin was arrested for a month, released on bail, saw the case found faulty and himself pronounced innocent, apologized to and, finally, financially compensated [blocked in China].

Here‘s what EastSouthWestNorth blogger Roland Soong wrote at the time:

“According to information, on the morning of September 1, 2006, leaders from the Pengshui public security bureau, procuratorate and court met to discuss the case along with other department not related to political law. The decision was to charge Qin Zhongfei with libel.

This was an obvious mistake, because if the subjects of the case (Lan Qinghua, Zhou Wei and others) felt that they were libeled, they should have filed a complaint directly with the People's Court. Instead, Qin Zhongfei was detained by the public security bureau.”

One of the most blogged-about political scandals of 2006, it was given fresh momentum with the news last week of Lan Qinghua's appointment as Deputy Director of the Statistics Bureau for Chongqing Municipality, just over two months since Lan was dismissed from his post.

You can take Lan to the city, but can you call it a promotion? [blocked] Was this an assignment to a lower rank, a flat transfer or a move up? The Communist Party of China‘s ranking system is complicated, but many bloggers have taken issue with the move. There's even a Protest Lan Qinghua's Promotion! blog.

Qin Zhongfei's poem

Bokee VIP blogger Aston Wen tells it well:

在震惊全国的”彭水诗案” 中,蓝庆华是主角。在蓝庆华治下的臣民中出了一个诗歌天才,这个诗歌天才姓秦名中飞,在彭水县只是一名小小的县教委的办事科员,还是借调的临时工,但他天性喜欢舞文弄墨,在茶余饭后、闲暇之余,写出了一首在当地惊公仆泣百姓的绝世短信诗歌(一种新的诗歌体裁),轰动了彭水县境,被人们广为传诵。但彭水县的父母官蓝庆华不以为荣,反以为耻,不仅不愿意当伯乐,不去提拔这样的才俊之士,反而嫉贤妒能,对他进行打击报复,命令彭水县公安局以涉嫌”诽谤罪”把他送进看守所关押了一个月。可怜秦中飞这个瘦弱的文人,自己津津乐道的诗歌不仅没有给自己带来好运,反而给自己招致了牢狱之灾。一个月折腾下来,早已是人不像人,鬼不像鬼了。

In the “Pengshui Poetry Case” which shocked the entire nation, Lan Qinghua was in the leading role. Among the subjects under Lan Qinghua's rule there emerged a poetic genius, and this poetic genius’ name was Qin Zhongfei. In Pengshui he was just one small, small county's education department's staff member, and temporary staff at that, but it was his nature to like to show off his literary talent. One day, faced with some spare time on his hands, he wrote one SMS poem that shocked civil servants and shook the common people like no other SMS poem ever had before, that stirred up and spread widely by the entire county. But Pengshui County parent Lan Qinghua saw no honor in this, instead saw only shame, and not only was he not willing to act as talent scout and promote this talented individual, he instead grew jealous of Qin's talent and set out to retaliate, ordering the Public Security Bureau of Pengshui County to lock him up for a month on suspicion of the crime of slander. Poor thin and weak penman Qin Zhongfei; not only did his beloved poem not bring him any good luck, it instead got him thrown into prison. After a month of torment, he no longer looked human, not even like a ghost.


Then, under fierce attack from the media and society, fabricator of the unjust, wrong and false case County Master Lan Qinghua was stripped of his black official's hat and now, not only has he regained his once lost hat, but the new one is a step taller than the old. This of course is unacceptable to the people of the land, and of course there are some sounding off and complaining.


But this blog tries extremely hard to be practical. This blog feels that the arrangement of Lan Qinghua to be Deputy Director of Chongqing Municipality Statistics Bureau is based on merit, recognition of talent. Because Lan Qinghua during his time as County Master did not use that talent, remained utterly ignorant of poetry, for that reason he was stripped of his black County Master hat. Now he's been given the black Deputy Director of Chongqing Municipality Statistics Bureau hat to wear. It was only following an inspection that the higher authorities recognized that Lan Qinghua is a mathematical genius, that he has a naturally superb perceptiveness of numbers, a master of number games. Displayed prominently during his time as County Master, leading him to be assigned now as Deputy Director of Chongqing Municipality Statistics Bureau is of course putting putting good steel to a blade. Furthermore, the higher authorities originally wanted to appoint him Director of Chongqing Municipality Statistics Bureau, but taking into consideration his past suppression of poet Qin Zhongfei and the negative effects it created, only placed him temporarily in the Deputy position. But he will be promoted later. The Chongqing Municipality Statistics Bureau for the People's Republic of China throne has been prepared just for him.


That's why, Lan Qinghua's appointment as Deputy Director of the Chongqing Municipality Statistics Bureau was not an oversight on the part of the Party organization, nor does Lan Qinghua have a powerful background, instead it's the Party organization's vision, knowing talent when it sees it!

Third Eye at the News BBS:


This transfer is very suggestive in meaning. Have the people involved in the “Pengshui Poetry Case”, through two months of study, made a qualitative leap in thinking and understanding? Have the people involved in the “Pengshui Poetry Case”, through two months of rest and recollection, fundamentally improved their political caliber? Or is the Chongqing Municipality Organization Department trying to show the public something through this?

Responds commenter The Forum Master is Not In:


I think County Party Secretary ranks with Deputy Bureau Director! Who can verify?

A similar question asked anonymously here at the ChinaCourt blog, in response to a reposting from a Feb. 17 Southern Weekend article on the incident:


The Party Secretary dismissed from office in the Pengshui Poetry Case has been promoted to Departmental Deputy Rank? You don't have a fever, do you?

At the County Economy BBS, blogger He Xiangyu takes a shot, including an analysis of China's civil servant ranking scale in:


An accurate explanation regarding whether or not Chongqing Municipality, Pengshui County's former Party Secretary Lan's transfer was a promotion

先贴新的《公务员职务与级别管理规定》,希望大家明确各职务层次与 级别的对应关系:

First I'll post the new “Civil Servant Posts and Rank Management Ordinance”. I hope everyone is clear on the relationship between the various posts and their rankings [an slightly different version can be found here]:


(1) Premier of the People's Republic of China, Level 1


(2) Vice Premier of the People's Republic of China and members of the State Council, Levels 2-4;


(3) Leading roles of provinces or equivalents, Levels 4-8;


(4) Assisting roles of provinces or equivalents, Levels 6-10;


(5) Leading roles of departments or equivalents, Levels 8-13;


(6) Assisting roles of departments or equivalents, Levels 10-15;


(7) Leading roles of counties or equivalents, Levels 12-18;


(8) Assisting roles of counties or equivalents, Levels 8-11;


(9) Leading roles of townships or equivalents, Levels 9-12;


(10) Assisting roles of townships or equivalents (副乡级), Levels 9-13;


This blogger is employed in a certain department in a certain district in Chongqing Municipality and will now give an accurate explanation of whether Mr. Lan's transfer was a promotion.

一,在其他存在省、市、县三级管理体制的普通省份 ,县委书记确实是正处级(即县处级正职),但在重庆市,因直辖的原则,县的正职(主记、县长)都是(6)厅局级副职 。从一个县的书记调任市体育局副书记,一般应该是平调。

1. In places where there exists the normal three-tiered (provinces, cities and counties) system of management, a County Party Secretary is definitely equivalent to county leader [or equivalent] rank, but Chongqing, being directly administered by the central government, county leadership posts (Director-Secretary, County head) are all [equivalent to] (#6) assisting roles of departments or equivalents. To be transferred from County Secretary to [for example] Secretary of a Municipal Sports Bureau (representative of an non-weighty Bureau) would normally be an equal transfer.

二、重庆市下属除了县之外,还有区、市(县级市)两种体制(如渝中区 、永川市)。其中县、县级市的正职(党政一把手)都是厅局级副职,而区的党政一把手,统统是(5)厅局级正职,要高半级。而且如万州区,由于是移民大区,特别重要,其区委书记是重庆市委党委,是(4)省部级副职 。当然,万州区是特例,重庆也独此一家。

2. Excluding counties, Chongqing Municipality is divided into districts (like Yuzhong) and a (county-level) city (like Yongchuan). Between the counties and county-level cities [according to Wikipedia, Yongchuan was reclassified last year from a city to a county-level district], leadership posts (both Party and [city] government) are equivalent to department director deputies, while district-level Party and government leaders are at the (#5) department director level, or half a rank higher. But for like Wanzhou district, being a largely migrant worker district and thus especially important, its District Party Secretaries are Chongqing Municipal Committee's Party Committee Secretaries [top Party leader], or (#4) assisting [deputy] roles of provinces or equivalents level. Of course, Wanzhou district is an exception, the only one of its kind in Chongqing Municipality.

三,虽然蓝某的调职从表面上看是平调,但到底是升了还是被贬了 ,还无法一口断定。因为从表面上看一个县的一把手比一个体育局(典型的非重点部门)的副书记肯定权力大,搞头多,但是否体育局只是一个跳板,一个台阶,是否就此没有前途,还要从蓝某的年龄 、与领导的关系、领导对此事的态度等多方面进行考虑。虽然体育局总体看来油水不大,但体育彩票也是体育局管,每年也有体育场馆建设等多方面投入,蓝某如果分管业务,也不是没油水可捞。

3. Although Mr. Lan's transfer appears on the surface to be an equal reassignment, as to whether or not it was a promotion or a demotion cannot be said for sure in one breath. Because on the surface it appears that the leaders of a county clearly have more authority and pull than, say, the Sports Bureau's Deputy Secretary. But as to whether the Sports Bureau is merely a springboard, a stairway, whether if offers any prospects, one must take into consideration Mr. Lan's age, relationships with leaders, their attitude towards this entire incident, and many other factors. Although the Sports Bureau overall doesn't appear very profitable, it is the Sports Bureau that oversees the sports lottery, and every year the Sports Bureau does invest in many areas such as the construction of sports stadiums. If Mr. Lan is in charge of operations, it's not like there won't be any profit to be had.

四,虽然有以上总总的不确定,但从普遍情形分析,蓝某东山再起的可能性 不大。彭水诗案说小点是以权压法,说大点是犯了政治错误,又闹得全国皆知,比不得车祸与矿难(一年个N多起,见怪不怪),这个起一年顶多两、还是比较引人注目。个人认为蓝某最终在体育局混几年,然后到年龄当个调研员,直至退休的可能性最高。

4. Although the above can never be verified, an analysis of the general situation shows that likelihood of Mr. Lan's continued success is not high. The Pengshui Poem Case could partly be said was the use of authority to override the law, more so of a political error, one that was blown up and made known throughout the country, although incomparable to traffic accidents and mine disasters (which happen so often each year as to hardly seem strange), for at least the next year or two will remain the focus of many eyes. Personally, I feel that most likely Mr. Lan will stick around the Sports Bureau for a few years and then when he reaches the age, become an investigator.

Last fall, National People's Congress representative Sun Jian called for an investigation into the matter, which resulted in Pengshui Party Secretary Lan Qinghua's dismissal. It was two months later that Lan was appointed to the Statistics post. Here, Strong China (强国) blogger Guang Minghang offers an explanation as to why he thinks this counts as a promotion:

应该说,人大代表这一提案是非常有道理的,然而,竟未被理睬,蓝庆华不但未被追究违法违纪责任,反而 被任命为重庆市统计局副局长。据统计局工作人员说,该局为正厅级单位,副局长一般都是副厅级。蓝庆华免职前职务为彭水县县委书记,这个职务一般都是正处级,这就是说,蓝庆华已从县处级升到了副厅级,这实在令社会公众大跌眼镜。

It should be said that the National People's Congress representative was right on track in this proposal. But then, it wasn't paid any attention to. Lan Qinghua was not only not held responsible and disciplined for violating the law, but instead appointed as Deputy Director of the Chongqing Municipality Statistics Bureau. According to a Statistics Bureau employee, this Bureau is a Departmental level unit and Deputy Bureau Directors are all pretty much at the Departmental Deputy rank. Lan Qinghua's post prior to being dismissed was Party Secretary for Pengshui County. This post is roughly at the County leader level. In other words, Lan Qinghua has been promoted from County Leader rank to Department Deputy rank. This move actually shocked the general public to the point that they dropped their glasses in wonder.

At the same time, is this a case of local Party outfits working outside the rule of law and disregarding Central Government decrees? Guang Minghang contintues:

中央三令五申,严禁提拔 “带病”干部。蓝庆华因滥用公权、干涉司法被免职,明显是个”带病”之身,然而,重庆市竟置中央禁令于不顾,公然提拔重用这样”带病”的干部,实在令人费解,也是难以令公众接受的。是因为蓝庆华在免职后有重大立功表现?还是因为他有经天纬地之才,离了他重庆市天会塌地会陷?对此,重庆市能给中央禁令一个合理交待,给公众一个满意的回答吗?

The Central Government has repeatedly issued orders strictly forbidding the appointment of “sick” cadres. Lan Qinghua, after being dismissed for abusing public power and interfering with justice, is obviously a “sick” cadre. However, that Chongqing Municipality proceeded to ignore a Central Government ban and openly promote this “sick” cadre to a high-up position, is both perplexing and hard for the public to accept. Was it because of major contributions Lan Qinghua made following his dismissal? Or is it because he's of such rare talent that without him Chongqing Municipality will collapse? Through this, can Chongqing Municipality treat the Central Government decree appropriately and give the public a satisfactory answer?

Another comment from County Economy BBS user Don't Ask:


It looks as though Chongqing's got a Chen Liangyu of its own…hehe.

Have you seen enough to make a call either way? If not, don't worry, you're not the only one. From Baidu blogger Duman:

有关部门这样作,就让我们有些不明白了。如果说秦中飞写诗没错 ,那蓝庆华对他的打击就是错误的,免去蓝的县委书记职务,就应该是理所应当的。如今蓝庆华荣升副厅级领导,也许是意在说明当初对他的免职处理是错误的,如果当初把蓝免错了,那就说明蓝庆华刑拘秦中飞是对的,那秦中飞写打油诗本身又错了。可是彭水警方已经明确表示秦中飞诽谤案属于错案,并对给秦造成的伤害表示了道歉。呵呵,在这样一起看似普通的案件中,竟然当事双方都没错 ,那错的就是我们这些观众了!

For the parties concerned to act in this way, we just don't get it. If you said Qin Zhongfei made no mistake in writing the poem, then the mistake was Lan Qinghua's attack on him and dismissing Lan from his County Party Secretary post was appropriate. Now, Lan Qinghua has honorably moved up to leader at the Department Deputy level. Maybe it implies that resolving this at the time by removing Lan from his post was the mistake, but if that were the case, then the implication would be that Lan Qinghua's punishing and detaining of Qin Zhongfei was right, that Qin Zhongfei was wrong to write this shoddy poem. But Pengshui police already said the libel case against Qin Zhongfei was unfounded, and apologized to Qin for injuries caused. Hehe, in this kind of first-glance-seems-normal case, actually neither side made any mistake.


  • John – this is a great post – thanks! I actually spent a while this week trying to dig up some of the scholarly articles on China’s nomenklatura system [subscription only] but was unable to access them because I don’t have a JSTOR subscription. There’s an interesting study available here, too [abstract available] about attempts to reform the cadre management system:

    China’s civil service reform programme inaugurated in 1993, was aimed at enhancing the state’s ability to respond to new needs emerging amidst a rapidly changing socio-economic environment. This article discusses the contours of the programme and argues that its implementation process generated a dynamic between central policymakers who sought to optimise economic rationality and local leaders who placed more emphasis on coping with conflicts arising from the implementation of the reform. It also argues that many of the reform initiatives were more symbolic than real. Implementation problems were more pronounced in lower-level governments and were attributed to conflictual policy context.

  • 中国有的是人,而且也不乏人才,把一个有错误的官员升职,还要搞什么理由,“数学天才”能说的过去吗?照此逻辑,去年陕西杀人恶魔邱兴华是不是应当去作一名职业刽子手才是人尽其用呢?

    Translation by Chinese Language Editor John Kennedy:
    One thing China has is people, and there’s no lack of talent there. Is being a “mathematical genius” reason enough to promote such a mistaken official? According to this logic, wouldn’t the demon killer from Shaanxi province last year Qiu Xinghua[ ] be best suited to be a professional executioner?

  • […] Somewhat related to this recent post, Sichuan province Writer’s Association member and Strong China blogger Li Hongzhi looks at a recent decision from the organizational department of the provincial Communist Party which limits government leaders’ training trips abroad. […]

  • satern_xiao

    oh wonderful story and comment and excellent poet!

  • […] “the black brick kilns,” “the Nie Shubin case”, “the Pengshui poetry case”, “the Wei Wenhua case”, the “recommendation to abolish labor […]

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