Wednesday, 26 January 2011

An Attempt at Appeasement

With Spring Festival or Chinese New Year coming up, Premier Wen Jiabao did something no other senior leader in the history of the Communist Party of China has ever done -- visit petitioners.
These people with grievances come to Beijing to try to file their petitions to the State Bureau of Letters and Calls if they feel the local authorities have not addressed their concerns properly or legally.
The crazy thing is that Beijing has tried to stop petitioners from going to this office, and provincial and local authorities even hire thugs to prevent these people from getting to Beijing or forcibly take them back or throw them into illegal "black jails".
That's because they don't want the central government to know there are problems in their area or Beijing wants to present the perception that China is a "harmonious society".
Some analysts believe Wen's visit showed the government's concern about petitioners as the authorities see this group of people as threatening social stability.
Wen met with petitioners from Tianjin, Jilin, Shandong, Inner Mongolia, Hubei, Hebei, Shanxi and Jiangsu, listening to their problems and grievances.
"I came here to seek your opinions on the government's work. Please don't hold anything back, and give me the facts," he said.
Most of the petitioners told him about forced evictions and land seizure disputes.
"As in some cases of land expropriations and house demolition happen in rural areas, the State Council is conducting research to work out relevant laws and regulations [to protect peoples' rights]," he said. "Land is the lifeline of farmers. The government must examine and approve projects using arable land strictly and in accordance with the law... and give reasonable compensation."
Then Wen urged the local authorities to be patient with petitioners and address their problems.
"Our government is the government of the people, and our power is granted by the people," he was quoted as saying by Xinhua.
It's interesting to see Wen addressing petitioners before Spring Festival, probably in a bid to ease tensions before the holiday in a gesture of good will.
However, a petitioner, Wu Wei from Beijing's Haidian district was skeptical about the meeting which was broadcast on state television.
"Those people Wen met don't look like real petitioners and I simply don't think it's possible for Wen to meet people like us," he said. "What he did is just for show, which will not do any help to alleviate our sufferings."
Wu has been petitioning over his forced eviction since 2007.
Looks like Wen needs to brush up on his act as many people can see right through it.

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