The People’s Party

I don’t want to be a broken record, but there are certain issues that arise again and again, and even if it’s boring I think the stories have to be told, lest we fool ourselves into thinking the problem has gone away. Land seized illegally from the disenfranchised in China is such an issue.

Liu Guilan had hoped to spend the remaining years of her life quietly in her little village on Beijing’s outskirts. Instead, the 64-year-old now lives in fear of a midnight knock from the demolition man.

The water and power to her traditional courtyard house have been cut off since April, and now the local government has issued her an ultimatum to pack up and leave.

“I’ve lived here through so many hardships already. I’m not going,” Liu said, standing in a bedroom bare apart from a bed covered in a dirty sheet and a table with a few personal belongings on it. “I’m just a poor peasant woman,” she added, dabbing away her tears with toilet paper. “I don’t seem to have any rights.”

As breakneck urban development eats into China’s countryside, arbitrary land grabs by officials making exorbitant profits by selling it on to developers have sparked resentment and, in some cases, major social unrest.

Premier Wen Jiabao admitted in March during the annual meeting of parliament that errant local officials were to blame for many of the protests and vowed harsh punishment for those who forcibly seize land from peasants.

John Pomfret, in his book that I reviewed this weekend, tells of recently meeting one of his former classmates from the early 1980s, Big Bluffer (I think that’s his name; I don’t have the book on me at the moment). The Bluffer is now a corrupt official and proud of it. Pomfret describes how Bluffer, driving him around in his fancy new car, hits a bicycling peasant and sends him flying. The old man is thrown on the cement where he’s bleeding, and Bluffer just keeps talking and driving, as though nothing happened – the have-nots exist only at the mercy and whim of the haves. Such stories, just like the story above, are so plentiful, it’s easy to become desensitized. But someone’s got to keep telling them, because there’s a lot of propaganda out there trying to convince us the Party is just and magnanimous. It is, if you’re on the right side of the tracks. And woe unto him who is not.

Link via CDT.

The Discussion: One Comment

I wonder if the poor peasant that “Big Bluffer” hit was riding one of those Forever bicycles mentioned in “Math’s” post. That’s why it’s fascinating to read blogs with viewpoints of people like him, and far right-wingers. I could never imagine that anyone could defend the things they do…

July 11, 2006 @ 5:24 am | Comment

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