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China: Law or Justice?

According to Chongqing Evening News, by November 15th 2905 suspects had been arrested during a massive crackdown on gangs in the municipality of Chongqing, a major city with 30 million population and provincial status. The campaign was unprecedented both in its scope and its depth as it brought down a large number of government officials including the Director of Justice Bureau Wen Qiang, Deputy Police Chief Peng Changjian, plus scores of other police officers, government officials, prosecutors and judges. It is one of the first times that the linkage between political power and the black underworld in so many parts of China has been so publically exposed.

The success of the campaign has won tremendous popularity for Chongqing’s leadership, especially for the party secretary Bo Xilai, also a member of the powerful Politburo. However, many people expressed doubts as to whether the procedural justice was respected, whether Bo launched this campaign solely out of his own ambitious agenda, and also whether such a Mao-style campaign would be effective in solving long-term problems. In September, John Kennedy of GV reported on this debate by asking whether Bo Xilai’s corruption crackdown was good for China.

The debate reached another dimension when the State-run newspapers started to report on the sensational drama that was involved in Wen Qiang’s interrogation. The following quote comes from a tabloid-style ‘news story‘ reported by Yangtse Evening News, a widely distributed regional affiliate of Xinhua News Agency, based on the information provided by an ‘anonymous insider':


After being internally disciplined, Wen Qiang understood that he could not avoid pleading guilty for some of his crimes therefore he pretended to be very honest and during the interrogation, he bragged about the great number of tales on how he had loved women and seduced women. He even recounted the stories of how he had raped young girls and seduced actresses. He said whenever there was an actress or a female singer came to perform in a show in Chongqing, he would always go to bed with them by bribery or extortion or any other means. However, he outsmarted himself. When his wife was informed of these stories, “she cried and kept calling Wen Qiang a beast”, said the anonymous insider. “Then she gave up some information about Wen Qiang and took us to dig out the bribes he had hidden at a fishing pond.”

This story raised the eyebrows of many, notably those of columnist Chang Ping, who wrote an article on the matter in  The Financial Times’ Chinese website. In the article, Chang Ping suggested that the so-called ‘anonymous insider’ could only be one of the investigators of Wen Qiang’s case. He went on to question whether the investigators had followed the proper procedures by making this criminal case into a tabloid sensation. He speculated that the police most likely had not even verified the information with any of the so-called ‘actresses’, neither did them follow the principle that no matter how bad a suspect seemed to be, they should not be treated and vilified as a real criminal before the formal indictment took place.


In China, there will almost always be some gossip about fallen or corrupt officials. Yet, the source of the gossip is not gossipers, but government institutions, either the police or the propaganda organs. Different from regular media, they have very serious motivation for releasing such gossip, namely, to allege that the person in question is morally degenerate. Moreover, in their perspective, to degrade and defeat this person on moral grounds is more important than to verify the facts through legal procedures during this stage.


So, why do the investigators think that ‘raping young girls and seducing actresses’ is the more important information? Is has to do with Chinese Communist Party’s historical tradition where the authority is never content with simply indicting the fallen or the suspect through legal processes, but has to completely ‘topple him’ and to ‘defame him’. The ‘life-style issue’ is an endless TV series, and the people of this nation have been more and more entertained.

However, Chang Ping’s essay has sparked a heated discussion in the following comment section which seems to suggest that many people believe sometimes to attack the evil, political tactics may take precedence over the due process of law. In this sense, the very mindset Chang Ping is attacking still possesses a great deal of currency. Following is a sample of such comments.


The anti-gang crackdown is an act of justice. How dare you call it power struggle? I think you are precisely the one who has the mafia sympathies. No matter whether you call it power struggle, if good power struggles successfully against the bad one then it is good for the people. In the past, when the Communists fought the KMT, you could also name it as a power struggle. However, the great majority of the poor – the roots of Chinese civilization – were indeed liberated! Such is the will of heaven!!!! Gangsters are a tumor in the society and whichever public official feeds them, he is an enemy of the People. We must struggle against them!


After reading this essay, I feel really hopeless. I always have high opinions of you intellectuals and feel offended when politicians and masses scorn people like you. However, after reading your essay, I only have one feeling – pedantic,  despicable!


When you entangle yourself in meaningless details, do you realize how far you have digressed from the right path? Given present circumstances in China, will those evil people be punished if not by exceptional measures? These brave people are wielding machetes on the ‘jackals and wolves’ of our society at the risk of their own lives, while you sit there and criticize as if they have violated some sort of ‘animal protection’ laws. Aren’t you aiding the evil so that they can become even more evil?

这个作者显然对中国的政治还不了解,就来这里试图忽悠别人。记住了,一件事,不看动机,而是看结果。如果这件事情最终的结果是让坏人死掉,好人受益,那就是好事。这件事情,文强是个坏人,付出代价,那是正常的。现在作者在这里矫情西方的所谓‘无恶意假定’,想要说明什么?难道想说 审问农夫和蛇中的蛇,也要给他仁义道德?作者明显是为了稿费炮制这么一出添西方媒体屁股的文章~

Obviously, this author wrote here to dupe others even though he knows very little about Chinese politics. Remember, when we look at something, we don’t ask about the motivation, but the result. If this thing eventually leads to the death of bad people and the benefit for good people, then this is a good thing. In this case, Wen Qiang is a bad person and it is only natural for him to pay the price for being bad. Now, what do you try to prove by flirting with this Western notion of ‘presumption of innocence’? Do you want to say that in the parable of the farmer and snake, kindness should be granted also to the snake? Obviously, by writing this kind of essay the author was kowtowing to the western media and all he wanted was only his payment.


Chang Ping always thinks he is correct. His mouth is always full of rule of law and he always takes the moral high ground. No matter whether his comments are correct or not, they all sound so professional, so close to the crux of matter. Take this case as an example. All corrupt officials indulge in debauchery and there is plenty of this kind of report in China. But when he brings out the rule of law, then human rights floow and readers are suddenly elevated to a whole new level. It is as if this should actually be the case. He is so logical.

To be fair, many people also show support for the ideals that Chang Ping stands for.


If there is no proof offered then isn’t all this just fabrication? Judicial institutions are not media entertainment companies. Shouldn’t they be held accountable for their own words?


I believe Chang Ping’s thoughts deserves to be heeded carefully. In fact, the over-emphasis our media has placed on sex has diverted the attention from the more serious theme which is corruption. In addition, we must take legal processes seriously and uphold the basic rights of the suspect because we have to profoundly re-examine our system and to avoid the present cycle of ‘winner is the king, loser is the prisoner’!


Chang Ping is one of the few media people who still stick to professional ethics. Yet unfortunately, most people don’t care about this.


Why is it nobody cares about the legitimacy of the procedures? Is it really the case that all we want is to publicly humiliate the fallen one both body and soul? How can we make sure no more evil will be spawned after eradicating the one at hand?


Chinese people, without the knowledge of a modern citizen, can only keep going around in circles in this fantasy about this upright official who will eventually save us all.

曲高和寡, 这是痛苦.

You sing so nobly, yet those who sing with you are so few. It is so painful.

A third, more cynical sentiment can also be found occasionally in the comments. For these people, not only this story on Wen Qiang’s sexual affairs but the whole crackdown is merely a part of a power struggle. Therefore, in their opinion, there is simply no point in arguing whether it follows procedural justice or not.


Law is no more than a tool used to defeat the enemy.


Political struggle is all about deceiving each other since the ancient time. Political movements such as this crackdown are a violation against the already defective laws. There is no such thing as ‘lawful’ or ‘proper’ in this affair.

政治斗争, 谈不上什么正不正义, 手段而已, 多点娱乐资料, 没什么不好.

Political struggle has little to do with justice. It is all about scheming and tactics. At least it provides more material for entertaining ourselves.


People’s lives are too repressed. In such an era of universal entertainment and universal gossiping, relishing such peripheral matters is understandable.


If you think that China can solve her social problems, especially mafia-type problems, through legal processes, then you know little about China’s realities. If you list in which countries there is no rule of law then China will surely appear on that list. All the movements or incidents of the past seldom take into consideration people’s needs or society’s progress. It is all just a tool for politic gain. If the time comes when China’s rulers become truly concerned for the people’s interests, then China will become truly strong. But, such a wish may never come true.

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