Friday, 4 March 2011

Getting the Subtle Hint

The two meetings or 兩會 (liang hui) start tomorrow -- the Chinese People's Consultative Conference (CPPCC) and the National People's Congress (NPC) -- and delegates are descending on Beijing to voice their suggestions or concerns to the government and fellow attendees.

Hong Kong delegate Dr Lew Mon-hung plans to submit an proposal to the advisory body of the CPPCC to investigate the sentencing of Zhao Lianhai, the father who was jailed for fighting for the rights of melamine milk victims.

However, he reported last night that two mainland officials, one of them high-ranking, contacted him in the last few days urging him not to submit the proposal.

"They told me that the timing was too sensitive and that the media would stir this up," Lew said. "The theme of this year's meeting was the 12th national five-year plan and economic development and they did not want my proposal to overshadow it. They told me this in a very courteous manner," he continued. "I would not say they were exerting pressure on me, but rather advising me."

Lew had initially thought of asking fellow delegates to co-sign the proposal, but then decided to file it by himself. "I don't see any need for me to withhold it. I will file the proposal anyway," he said.

Lew is proposing to look into the responsibility of the unlawful handling of Zhao's case in Daxing District Court in Beijing where he was sentenced to two and a half years in jail in November for "provoking quarrels and making trouble". Zhao had organized a group to seek redress for 300,000 infants affected by milk tainted with melamine in 2008.

Zhao was released on medical parole in December.

It's interesting Lew told the media about his conversations with these officials he didn't identify. It just reconfirms that the "two meetings" are a public relations exercise and the government is trying to work behind the scenes to make it look as though things are going smooth as possible.

While it will acknowledge there are issues -- for example huge social problems that need to be addressed -- it will only pay lip service to them and not really tackle them head on in any meaningful way.

Kudos to Lew for speaking up about his contacts with Chinese officials and hopefully he will have a chance to speak up about his proposal. It may not be heard but at least it will be submitted in paper, in black and white for all to see.

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