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Must We Gossip to Convict Criminals in Power?

By Robert Woo, Global Voices  Posted by Jason Paz (about the submitter)       (Page 1 of 5 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   1 comment

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China: Law or Justice?

According to Chongqing Evening News, by November 15th, 2905 suspects had been arrested during a massive crackdown on gangs in the municipality of Chongqing, a major city with 30 million people and provincial status. The campaign was unprecedented both in its scope and its depth as it brought down a large number of government officials including the Director of Justice Bureau Wen Qiang, Deputy Police Chief Peng Changjian, plus scores of other police officers, government officials, prosecutors and judges. It is one of the first times that the linkage between political power and the black underworld in so many parts of China has been so publicly exposed.

The success of the campaign has won tremendous popularity for Chongqing's leadership, especially for the party secretary Bo Xilai, also a member of the powerful Politburo. However, many people expressed doubts as to whether the procedural justice was respected, whether Bo launched this campaign solely out of his own ambitious agenda, and also whether such a Mao-style campaign would be effective in solving long-term problems. In September, John Kennedy of GV reported on this debate by asking whether Bo Xilai's corruption crackdown is good for China.

The debate reached another dimension when the State-run newspapers started to report on the sensational drama that was involved in Wen Qiang's interrogation. The following quote comes from a tabloid-style 'news story' reported by Yangtse Evening News, a widely distributed regional affiliate of Xinhua News Agency, based on the information provided by an 'anonymous insider':

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After being internally disciplined, Wen Qiang understood that he could not avoid pleading guilty for some of his crimes, therefore he pretended to be very honest and during the interrogation, he bragged about the great number of tales on how he had loved women and seduced women. He even recounted the stories of how he had raped young girls and seduced actresses. He said whenever there was an actress or a female singer came to perform in a show in Chongqing, he would always go to bed with them by bribery or extortion or any other means. However, he outsmarted himself. When his wife was informed of these stories, "she cried and kept calling Wen Qiang a beast", said the anonymous insider. "Then she gave up some information about Wen Qiang and took us to dig out the bribes he had hidden at a fishing pond."

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This story raised the eyebrows of many, notably those of columnist Chang Ping, who wrote an article on the matter in The Financial Times' Chinese website. In the article, Chang Ping suggested that the so-called 'anonymous insider' could only be one of the investigators of Wen Qiang's case. He went on to question whether the investigators had followed the proper procedures by making this criminal case into a tabloid sensation. He speculated that the police most likely had not even verified the information with any of the so-called 'actresses', neither did they follow the principle that no matter how bad a suspect seemed to be, they should not be treated and vilified as a real criminal before the formal indictment took place.

In China, there will almost always be some gossip about fallen or corrupt officials. Yet, the source of the gossip is not gossipers, but government institutions, either the police or the propaganda organs. Different from regular media, they have very serious motivation for releasing such gossip, namely, to allege that the person in question is morally degenerate. Moreover, from their perspective, to degrade and defeat a person on moral grounds is more important than to verify the facts through legal procedures during this stage.

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So, why do the investigators think that 'raping young girls and seducing actresses' is the more important information? It has to do with the Chinese Communist Party's historical tradition where the authority is never content with simply indicting the fallen or the suspect through legal processes, but has to completely 'topple him' and to 'defame him'. The 'life-style issue' is an endless TV series, and the people of this nation have been more and more entertained.

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Born a month before Pearl Harbor, I attended world events from an early age. My first words included Mussolini, Patton, Sahara and Patton. At age three I was a regular listener to Lowell Thomas. My mom was an industrial nurse a member of the (more...)

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