Sunday, October 09, 2005


A world out of joint: rural China Mafia-ized (with UPDATE at end!)

Update, 10/17: The Guardian has retracted major pieces of this story. Sometimes the world is so out of joint, so disordered, that it is impossible to make sense of. I have therefore re-ordered and mixed together the quotes in these extraordinary articles by Benjamin Joffe-Walt and by Jonathan Watts in The Guardian: Mr Lu spent his adult life working to empower villagers and to get the attention of Beijing and the world... He was one of the first popularly elected village chiefs in China....he spent most of his life... as an ordinary farmer.... The tactics in Taishi, however, were more sophisticated than those used by other protesters. Outside legal experts were asked for advice and the protesters used the internet and mobile phones to spread their campaign on bulletin boards and among domestic and foreign journalists. The last words of Mr Lu I wrote down were: "The police cover their arses. They employ all these thugs whose lives mean nothing to them to kill you...." "You foreigners you are ruining Taishi," they screamed. "You write write write so much about what's happened here that all these businesses have fled the new industrial zone." The last time I saw Lu Banglie, he was lying in a ditch on the side of the street - placid, numb and lifeless - the spit, snot and urine of about 20 men mixing with his blood, and running all over his body. This goes far beyond anything that has happened before," said Ho Wenzhuo of the Empowerment and Rights Institute. "It reveals the mafia-isation of local governments." Rural unrest throughout China is on the increase. The government says 3.6 million people took part in 74,000 "mass incidents" last year, up from 58,000 in 2003....Hundreds of smaller incidents are thought to go unreported every week. What I can tell you is that what's going on in Taishi is perhaps the most significant grassroots social movement China has seen since the Cultural Revolution, a rural revolt against corruption, against deterioration of healthcare, against the illegal sale of farmland, and broadly against urban capitalism that has reaped no benefits for these farmers. The murder of Mr. Lu is timeless. The scene could have been in Mexico, in Iran, Guatemala, Vietnam, Haiti, Africa, Mississippi, Memphis. It could even have been in Jerusalem, in the first century AD. And it's always the same. A mild-mannered and humble man or woman, filled with a bit more wisdom and inner peace and dignity than his peers, wants to see the hungry fed and each human being treated with dignity. And so he/she is murdered and the corpse treated like offal for the greater glory of the empire: Roman, Chinese, Russian, German, American... the empire changes. But the fallen one is always the same. [UPDATE: It looks as if Mr. Lu is, for now alive and well. Let's hope he stays that way.]
I am delighted to be very wrong. Mr Lu survived to fight another day
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