Sunday, October 09, 2005

Rule of the Mob

Horrific, shocking story in today's UK Guardian:
One of China's leading democracy activists has been beaten, possibly to death, in front of a Guardian journalist. Lu Banglie was last seen lying unconscious on the side of the road on Saturday night after an assault by a mob which had joined forces with police to stop a car containing him, the Guardian's Shanghai correspondent, Benjamin Joffe-Walt, and two other people.

They were on their way to Taishi, a village in the southern province of Guangdong which has become the latest flashpoint in a growing wave of rural unrest that is proving the greatest threat to the rule of the Communist party since the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989.

Mr Lu, one of a new breed of peasant leaders elected without the support of the party, had been in the area on the outskirts of Guangzhou city since August, encouraging residents to vote out officials accused of corruption...

...In Saturday's attack, Joffe-Walt said the car was stopped on a road outside Taishi by a group of about five police, five soldiers and as many as 50 people in plain clothes. The uniformed men soon left and then the mob set upon Mr Lu, dragging him out of the car and kicking him unconscious. They continued the assault for several minutes after he lost consciousness. "I was convinced he was dead and thought they were going to do the same to us," said Joffe-Walt. But he, his assistant and their driver escaped with being roughed up.
Human rights activists in China were shocked by the story, saying that this level of violence is unprecendented. The most telling statement comes from Ho Wenzhou, of the Empowerment and Rights Institute:
"This is an attack not just on Lu but on all people who work for grassroots democracy and human rights in China. It reveals the mafia-isation of local governments."
To me, "mafia-isation" perfectly describes what has gone on as ideology and totalitarianism have loosened their grip on today's China. We should all be grateful that for many Chinese people, the quality of life has improved and the range of personal freedom greatly expanded. I also believe that the central government has made some positive steps in in their struggle to establish a more coherent set of rules and regulations by which businesses and government agencies should function, particularly in areas such as environmental regulation. But they seem to lack the ability to enforce these good intentions on a local level. And this recent media crackdown does Beijing no favors. A more independent media at least could provide some feedback on what is really going on, in those places where the Emperor is far away.

What seems to be emerging in today's China is not the Rule Of Law, it's the Rule of the Mob.

Thanks to Zhuanjia for the tip.

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