Cover-up of a reporter’s murder in Shanxi

The story of the Chinese news reporter beaten to death while investigating China’s famously lethal coal mines is showing all the signs of a classic cover-up with Chinese characteristics (check out the charges that he was “a fake reporter”). You can read about the cover-up here, and about the background of the story here. I don’t always agree with ESWN, but there’s no question he’s an invaluable resource. That first link above is an absolute must-read, an angry and ironic and merciless denunciation of the government’s cover-up process. I can’t thank ESWN enough for this translation. And huge thanks to Southern Daily for once again living up to their well-earned reputation.

I hope this story gains traction. We are talking about a news reporter murdered for investigating a scandal, the kind of crime no serious government can tolerate without a serious investigation and search for justice. Luckily the story is already seeping into the international media.

Communist Party censors strictly control the Chinese press, but even state-controlled media have seized on Lan’s death, raising questions about local officials’ conduct, Lan’s motives, and the rights of the country’s beleaguered reporters.

“For a reporter to be beaten to death is undoubtedly a major event in a world that venerates democracy and freedom of information,” said a comment on the Web site of the Southern Daily (

“Any country that even slightly values citizens’ right to know and freedom of the press would actively and appropriately investigate and deal with this case.”

Shanxi officials have said Lan was not an accredited reporter – he was just two weeks into a trial period with the paper – and suggested that he might have been seeking to extort payoffs in return for not reporting problems at the mine, the China Youth Daily reported.

Right; it was the bad unaccredited fake reporter who was there doing all the bad things, and he kind of got what was coming to him. Again, you have to read the first link above. Here’s an excerpt, then I’ll let it go; I promised not to post tonight but it’s not easy to stop. Worse than cigarettes.

[T]he most urgent task was to deny the identify of the deceased. This will minimize public attention while diverting attention from the safety issue at coal mines. When the incident loses its news value, its impact will be smaller and the superiors are less likely to interview. So the relevant Datong city departments kept emphasizing that this was just a ‘fight’ and an ordinary crime. They insisted that the deceased was not a reporter, because the conditions of the relevant regulations about reporters have not been met, etc. Thus, Lan Chengchang died at the hands of thugs, but the principal reason was that the local news environment was disorderly and the reporters were a mixed lot. As to why the local news environment is disorderly and why there are so many fake reporters, the relevant departments will probably dodge the answer. After a few more evasions, the potentially key question of supervising mine safety will probably disappear. Furthermore, it is possible to clamp down on the various news media so that there will be fewer worries in the future. At this point, I have to say, “Brilliant! That is really brilliant!”

Yes, brilliant. This lacerating cry of rage is ingenious, a spoof of a diabolical blueprint, a spreadsheet for how to be evil. Paid for with your tax dollars. But remember, it’s no spoof – whoever carried it out really did think along these lines. Government of the people, by the people and for the people…

I’ll let you all know if there are any strange knocks on my hotel room door in the middle of the night.

Update: Let me add one amendment to this story. I am not blaming the central party directly for this sort of atrocity (so please don’t knock on my door). It has little control over these local situations. But that doesn’t let it off the hook altogether. It’s the patronage system, intrinsic to the party’s survival, that makes cracking down on such outrages nearly impossible. A real pity. If they could achieve, Lee Kuan Yew-style, this one thing – the implementation of a meaningful system of enforced rule of law – I might (with lots of caveats) become a champion of the party. Of course, if Chinese men all stopped smoking….

The Discussion: 2 Comments

Central Party Official: “It’s not our fault we’re so incompetant we can’t deal with these people! What do you expect us to do? Arrest all the corrupt officials – then there’d be no one left in the Party to run China!”

January 19, 2007 @ 8:22 am | Comment

I am not blaming the central party directly for this sort of atrocity (so please don’t knock on my door). It has little control over these local situations.

Shortly after the Central Government’s “justice and security” operations, Luo Gan spoke out on the importance of local governments “taking care” of social stability, so the central government wouldn’t have to get its hands messy.

I think the Reaganites and Busheviks would call it “plausible deniability”. Mix thoroughly with Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt (such as “fake reporter” nonsense) and you have a propaganda blitz. Why am I not surprised to see a certain name hip deep in the middle of it?

January 19, 2007 @ 10:00 am | Comment

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.