Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Good Intentions Filled with Holes

With the ongoing harsh crackdown on anyone the Chinese government deems is going against it -- human rights lawyers, bloggers and activists, people who challenge authority -- Premier Wen Jiabao is urging people to "speak the truth".

He made this statement along with his outrage over the moral breakdown of society in a speech to the newly appointed State Council advisers and members of the Central Research Institute of Culture and History last week.

It seems Wen is still keen on promoting political reform and rule of law, something he did five years ago and again twice last year, especially during a trip to Shenzhen.

In his remarks, the premier said people should be able to express their opinions freely. "I still stress [the importance] of speaking the truth... We must create conditions for people to speak the truth," he said. "For the government's policy to be... in line with people's wishes, one must listen to people's opinions."

Wen also criticized the deterioration of moral standards in China, saying the tainted milk scandal and poisonous chemicals found in food are deplorable.

"A country without improvements in the quality of people and moral strength cannot be a truly strong country respected by others," he said. "We must deepen political and economic reforms... to make lawbreakers and immoral people punishable by law."

What a breath of fresh air in stodgy repressive Beijing. But what he's saying is not party consensus. Wen is going out on a limb saying this and hoping to build momentum.


Professor Joseph Cheng Yu-shek, a political scientist at City University of Hong Kong, says Wen's inability to affect political and social change was "ironic and tragic".

"It is obvious he is the symbol and the voice of the reforming forces... The fact that he appears helpless is a very good reflection of China's political reality," he said. "You have people in the party who might be interested in reforms, but they are certainly in the minority and can't do much."

Meanwhile Professor Chan Kin-man, a China expert at the Chinese University of Hong Kong says the government has only itself to blame for the moral degeneration of the country. He believes the situation wouldn't be so bad if civil society groups and the media were allowed to investigate government and business conduct.

"They [the government] have made it happen... They would not allow the growth of [civil society]," Chan said.

It's interesting Wen chose the tainted milk and scandal as an example and yet didn't say Zhao Lianhai did the right thing for speaking out to get more attention about the plight of the children who had kidney stones as a result of drinking the melamine-laced powdered milk.

The lack of momentum on Wen's personal crusade pitifully shows his weakness in the central party system -- that despite being premier he does not have the support of the majority within the party. But it also shows his argument, though well-intentioned, is full of holes.

Not quite convincing, is it?

1 comment:

  1. deng xiao-ping's black cat and white cat theory has given people a wrong subliminal message that if you can make money it does not matter which way. that could be illegal or unethical ways. that is why china has become a country without a soul.