Thursday, December 9, 2010

Look who's 'above the law' in China

Dec 9, 2010

Brutal cases involving kids of rich and powerful officials raise concerns of social unrest

By Peh Shing Huei

BEIJING: A young man bumped his red Mazda 6 into an elderly woman, got out to scold her and then decided to inflict more pain by beating her up as well.

'I can even kill you. I have money. I would rather kill you and compensate you for it,' he shouted at the hapless woman.

Thousands of onlookers in north-eastern Changchun city quickly surrounded Mr Jiang Xiaozhu, according to local media, and ransacked his car before he was rescued by the police on Sunday.
An online background search for Mr Jiang, nicknamed 'police uniform man' because of what he was wearing, was quickly launched by netizens, whom the Chinese refer to as 'human flesh search engine'.

It revealed the 27-year-old to be a son of a local government official. His father is believed to be a county official and his father-in-law belongs to the same county's security forces.
Mr Jiang, an employee in a state tobacco firm, is what the Chinese refer derogatorily to as guan er dai, or the offspring of officials.

This unofficial clan of young Chinese are rich, arrogant and seemingly above the law because their parents are powerful and wealthy local officials.

And in recent weeks, public anger towards this privileged group has hit a high, largely because of several brutal incidents.

The most infamous involved the son of a senior police official in northern Hebei province who, when caught fleeing a fatal car accident in October, shouted: 'My dad is Li Gang!'

His words went viral on the Internet and have become the country's newest catchphrase, used in jokes, poems and even art installations.

But the phenomenon is not funny. These privileged young people have come to embody the qualities that ordinary Chinese hate about the authorities - corrupt, violent and lawless.

Experts believe that if the trend is left unchecked, it may lead to large-scale social unrest.
'With more and more of these guan er dai abusing their power, the people would have less faith in the ruling party, seeing it as a feudal organisation,' said anti-graft analyst Lin Zhe from the Central Party School.

'It would be a threat to social stability... Such things build up bit by bit, before exploding. Once the people revolt, it will be too late.'

Unhappiness with abuse of power by these guan er dai has boiled over in the past. Corruption by so-called 'princelings', children of top Chinese Communist Party leaders, was a key factor which led to the Tiananmen protests in 1989.

'The officials today are even greedier than the old cadres of the 1980s,' said Professor Lin. 'They want money, sex, government positions, academic titles, you name it. And not only do they plunder for themselves, they do it for their sons and daughters too.'

Indeed, guan er dai are also believed to get plum government jobs because of their parents' connections.

In Pingnan county, southern Fujian province, for example, the employment requirements for a finance department position were so specific and detailed that only one applicant fulfilled them last month. She was the county party secretary's daughter.

And in north-west Ningxia region, the son of two officials edged out 487 applicants for a civil service job despite allegedly not having completed his examination papers during the entrance exam.

Law professor Zhang Min from Renmin University said that if most people believe officialdom is beyond their reach and is reserved for only the children of officials, the people's hatred of officials would intensify.

'Such hatred would coalesce into a frightening force,' he wrote on the People's Daily website.
'And history tells us that once such a force has been formed, there is little chance of peace in the world.'

Additional reporting by Lina Miao

[Corruption could curtail China's rise significantly. When less than the best is leading the country, when positions are obtained from privilege rather than by merit and ability, leadership will be mediocre. Progress suffers. When society believes that injustice rules, there is less rule of law and less trust and less social cohesion. They need to get this right or corruption will cripple or sink their destiny.]

No comments: