Fellows of the JMSC’s China Media Project (CMP) have been contributing guest opinion articles to Hong Kong’s leading English-language newspaper, the South China Morning Post.
Xiao Shu, a veteran columnist for Southern Weekly and China Youth Daily, is one of the CMP’s fellows. An article that he wrote for Time Weekly was translated into English by the CMP and appeared in the SCMP on Friday 5th October, 2010.
The article, called simply “Nowhere to Hide“, discussed the need for an enforced rule of law in mainland China. Xiao pointed out that people who are senior in the Communist Party are increasingly likely to fall foul of China’s weak legal system and find themselves, like millions of lowlier citizens, unprotected by the law.
The situation has got so bad that the most senior Communist Party leader in charge of legal affairs in China, Zhou Yongkan, recently called for a stronger, more enforced, legal system. At a conference about the law in Beijing, Zhou said that China must “comply with the universal principles of law” and “adopt and learn from great human precedents in the area of rule of law.”
The article gave examples of cases in which people who one would not normally expect would not need legal protection in China, for example senior Party officials, have been maltreated. For example, a senior party official at Wuhan University in Hubei province, who was involved in a bribery case, was subjected to three days and nights of beatings and interrogation that exposed him to severe cold. Subsequently, he claimed that the confession he made was in fact extracted from him by torture. However, at his trial, he was told that “there are no laws or regulations about the length of interrogations, and so they had done nothing illegal.”
Xiao wrote in his article that “the system deals with them [senior figures] as it deals with all those who fall through the cracks and find themselves in positions of weakness.”
The plus side of China’s elites finding themselves unprotected by China’s ineffective legal system, Xiao said, is that it’s only once people of power, who thought they were beyond reproach, find the system inadequate that something might actually be done to improve it.
David Bandurski is a Research Associate at the China Media Project. He is keen for the China Media Project to provide regular translations of articles from CMP fellows to the SCMP, in order to draw greater attention to the views of Chinese professional journalists on Chinese current affairs.
“Outside China, and outside of the Chinese language, we have few opportunities to hear perspectives on current affairs from journalists and intellectuals in China,” said Bandurski. “Despite media controls, some strong and critical views can emerge in China’s press and online. We want to make sure these have a wider reach.”