I missed this story from two days ago, and it’s a great one, an important reminder that as a lot of good things happen here and people’s lives improve, there is still the same horror of corruption that pervades all levels of society here, right down to the teachers. That photo at the beginning of the couple clutching the photo of their murdered teenage son….
A couple of years ago I basically stopped posting stories of corruption in China because it’s such a common topic and it’s always the same story with different players. This one, however, is especially heart-wrenching and more than just an individual story – it’s a panoramic view of the problem that’s blighted China since its “economic miracle” began, adding an atrociously dark side to one of history’s most stunning success stories.
The story begins with the maddeningly familiar anecdote of corruption destroying the lives and dreams of innocent Chinese people:
The last time his parents saw Liao Mengjun alive, he was heading to school to pick up his junior high school diploma.
A few hours later, they were called to the morgue. They found that their lanky 15-year-old son’s forehead had been bashed in. His right knee jutted through the skin. Both his arms had been broken. He had several stab wounds, internal injuries and a swollen foot. His index finger was slashed, suggesting his tormentors had tried to make him write something in his own blood.
As if things could be worse, writer Liao Zusheng and his wife, Chen Guoying, concluded that they knew who had killed their son: his teachers. And they believed they knew why: because of their bitter, public complaints about unauthorized fees and systemic corruption in schools and across Chinese society.
Corruption is an everyday experience for millions of Chinese that taints not just schools, but relations in business, on farms and in factories, and potentially any contact citizens have with officialdom.
That’s just the starting point. By the time you get to the end your blood pressure will be up several notches. The most infuriating aspect is that there’s so little hope for change. The central government is paralyzed, because it needs the support of the local officials carrying out most of the outrages. The argument that the central party is impotent against them won’t fly. They intentionally let it go, for their own survival.
“Even if the central government wanted to see justice carried out at the village level, it is afraid of losing the support of local officials,” said Tang Jingling, an activist based in Guangzhou. “They need them to control society since they’re scared to death of any sort of unrest. And to do that, they must let them run their fiefdoms.”
It’s fine to love China and hope for the best for its people. But you can’t ever forget that a lot of bad things happen here, the kind of things most societies with rule of law could deal with quickly. On New Year’s Eve as we get ready for the parties, let’s not forget that there’s more to China than the glitter and glitz and glamour, and that a big chunk of the population lives in what is in effect a police state. So much progress and hope, and so much criminality and rot.
Read it all. Maybe there’s a tiny glimmer of something that might be called hope at the very end, where the reporter describes protest banners let fluttering in the wind – proof that at least the people can get their story told, and appear increasingly willing to challenge the criminal officials. But it seems a small and futile step, and there’s nothing like a happy ending. Quite the contrary.
Obligatory disclaimer: The US killed Native Americans, kept slaves and did all sorts of awful things under Bush. I condemn those things as heartily as I do the evils of the officials described in this article, and the system that encourages evil to thrive so the CCP can maintain its iron-grip on power. I write positive posts on China as well as negative ones and choose to live here of my own free will. You can’t write about China and ignore this elephant lurking in the corner.
Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.