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Hong Kong Paper Says Chinese Officials Disregard People's Views

Ming Pao
May 2, 2006
Hong Kong

Text of report by Chin Sheng entitled: "Officials to be held responsible despite efforts to quell disasters with money"; published by Hong Kong newspaper Ming Pao website on 2 May

A temporary sewage storage reservoir in Inner Mongolia's Wulateqianqi, which was criticized as a "sewage bomb" and strongly opposed by local villagers, finally yielded to the onslaught of a sand storm on 10 and 11 April, breaching part of the dam and subsequently overwhelming nine local villages. And yet when the victims of the disaster condemned the authorities for disregarding their personal safety and well-being, the local officials focused on accrediting their own merit in carrying out disaster relief measures, which they claim prevented the Yellow River [Huang He] from becoming polluted, and minimized the extent of losses. When the people asserted that the incident was caused by human error, local officials responded by claiming that the breach of the dam was simply an inevitable occurrence [act of nature]. Faced with such local officials, the villagers are in utter despair. Even Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao feel hand-tied, as such behaviour is typical of the very culture of official circles in China.

According to local officials, the sewage discharge system of paper plants in Inner Mongolia's Wulateqianqi fell short of official standards, leading the State Administration of Environmental Protection to order enterprises in the area to completely stop discharging sewage into the Yellow River. In the absence of sufficient financial resources - and to safeguard the livelihood of nearly 80,000 workers serving in the paper plants - the Wulateqianqi region has built four temporary sewage storage reservoirs. These reservoirs are mainly used to store the daily sewage discharged by people in the region as well as sewage discharged from two enterprises, namely, Saiwaixinghuazhang Limited Company and Meilibeichen Paper Works Limited Company.

Local people have all along been strongly opposed to the construction of such sewage storage reservoirs, and have kept paying "redress visits" to local authorities over the matter. But the local authorities turned a deaf ear to their appeals. Now that disaster has finally struck, all the local officials can do is to dispel the disaster with money. One cannot help but ask: Why on earth did these officials not listen to the people's warnings in the first place?

At the start of the Hu-Wen assumption of office, the top CCP [Chinese Communist Party] leadership that they head put forward a string of slogans pledging that the authorities would strive for the general welfare of the people, and that they would act in the best interests of the people and on their behalf. One of the reasons that Wen Jiabao was selected by Time magazine as one of the hundred most influential figures in the world was for his advocacy of social equality and his concern for the interests of the populace.

Recent years, however, have seen too many instances of officials encroaching on the interests of ordinary people, and in some cases, entrepreneurs making secrets deals with these officials. But when villagers try to warn of problems in a bid to safeguard their own interests, they are totally dismissed by CCP officials. What is more, they are often treated like criminals and dealt with by mainland authorities - using the autocratic machinery at their command - on charges of disrupting social stability and order.

The above-mentioned incident involving Inner Mongolia's Wulateqianqi sewage reservoirs has substantiated the fact that the villagers were indeed reasonable in opposing their construction, and in paying redress visits. Now that their homes are gone; now that their farmland has been overwhelmed - can officials evade blame without being penalized and simply assert that the victims have already been compensated?

Source: Ming Pao website, Hong Kong, in Chinese 2 May 06




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