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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':

被“双规”后,文强知道自己不招供一些违法事实难以过关,最初装出很坦白的样子,在审讯时天天讲自己喜欢女人和玩女人的大量故事,他还主动讲述一些强奸少女、玩女明星的过程,“他说但凡有女明星、女歌星到重庆走穴演出,只要能想到办法搞定她们,包括用钱买、利用女星的隐私恐吓她们等,他都要和这些明星睡一觉。”但文强聪明反被聪明误,他老婆得知文强交代的这些情况后,“大哭不止,一直骂文强是个畜生,”消息人士说,“然后她交代了文强的一些问题,还带着我们去挖鱼塘取出了赃款。”

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.

在中国,几乎所有的腐败官员都有八卦消息,但是这些消息的源头并非八卦人士,而是非常严肃的机构,不是警方就是宣传部门。与媒体略有不同的是,他们释放消息时有着非常严肃的目的,那就是证明此人道德堕落,生活腐化。而且,在他们看来,在这个阶段,从道德上打垮他,比从法律上认定他的犯罪事实更重要。

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.

那么专案小组为什么认为文强“强奸少女、玩女明星”是最重要的消息呢?这跟中共的历史传统有关。在这个传统中,当权者并不满足于从法律上指控落败者或犯罪嫌疑人,而是要将他全面“搞倒”、“搞臭”。生活作风问题,是一场永远不会终结的连续剧,这个国家的人民也越看越上瘾了。

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.

打黑是一种正义的行为,你们还说成官场斗争;我看你就有黑社会的细胞。说是官场斗争也好,是一批好官要斗倒一批黑官,对于人民来说,就是好事!当年共产党斗倒国民党,你也可以说是一场官场斗争,但是,广大的穷苦人—中华民族的根基所在,确是翻身了。这是天意!!!!黑社会是社会的毒瘤,哪个官养他,就是与人民为敌,这样的官一定要斗下去。

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!

看到你写这样的文章,真是感到悲哀。我一贯对中国知识分子抱有好感,对于政客和普通老百姓对他们的奚落和嘲笑感到不平,但是,看到你这篇文章,只有一个感觉——迂腐,可恨!

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!

你在纠缠于一些细枝末节的时候,知不知道自己已经偏离了大道?在中国当前的情况下,不采取特别手段能将这帮恶人制服吗?人家在那里冒着危险举起大刀劈向豺狼,你这里却批评人家违反了动物保护法,你这不是助纣为虐么?

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.

长平,总觉的自己都是对的,嘴里叫着法制,就站在道德制高点,他的评论无论对还是错,都是特别的专业,总能从一些事情中抓住事物的本质,比如就这件事,贪官有几个不乱淫,在中国都报道很多,可是法制联系在一起,人权就出来了,就把人带到另外一个境界,忽悠的好像就是那么一回事,特别有逻辑

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.

如果没有证据,那这些消息不是炮制出来的是什么?司法机关又不是娱乐媒体,说话不应该负有严肃的责任么?

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?

我认为长平的想法是值得重视的。事实上媒体对性的过度关注,从某种程度上转移了对更严肃主题——政治腐败的注意力;同时,我们重视严肃的法律审判,保护犯罪嫌疑人的基本权益,就是为了从制度上进行更深刻的反思,避免“胜者为王、败者为寇”的循环。

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’!

长平是中国为数不多的谨守职业操守的媒体人之一,可惜的是,大多数国人不在乎这些。

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

为什么没有人关注程序的合法性了?难道将一个堕落分子从灵魂到肉体都批烂、批臭就是我们追寻的目标?我们如何保证不会在消除罪恶的同时,产生更多的罪恶?

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?

缺乏现代公民意识的中国人民,只能继续在这种清官的盼望中轮回.

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.

法只不过是打倒异已的手段,

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

政治斗争自古以来尔虞我诈。什么打黑,什么严打之类其实就是对本来就不健全的法律的践踏。没有什么合理合法的事。

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.

现代人都活的太压抑,在这个全民娱乐八卦时代,把注意力放在花边上也可以理解。

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

如果愚蠢到认为在中国还可以按法律程序来处理社会问题,尤其是黑社会问题,那对中国的国情实在太不了解了。如果说世界上还有什么非法治国家,中国自然不会不出现在名单上。历来的运动或事件是从来不会考虑社会进步和百姓需要的,而总是政治工具而已。等什么时候中国各级当权者真正为老百姓的利益考虑事情,中国也就真正开始强大了。只是,这种愿望可能永远都不会实现。

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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