Two articles on New York Times last week set China’s Grandpa Wen along with China’s leader group in an embarrassing situation. The first one is entitled ‘China’s Leader Encourages Criticism of Government’ which is proposing raising more questioning voice from the public towards government administration and public issues. Ironically, just on the following day, another article was published with a headline of ‘Chinese Journalist Who Defied the Censors and Wrote about Corruption is fired’. It seems that China’s leader group is showing an attitude to encourage Chinese citizens to speak out as well as a willingness to hear their opinions, but in the manner of doing that, the outcome is completely self-contradictory.
Last week, the 68-year-old Prime Minister Wen Jiabao made a bold statement: he appeared at the nation’s top petition bureau in Beijing, where people go to file grievances, and encouraged citizens to criticize the government and press their cases for justice.
“We are the people’s government, and our power is vested upon us by the people,” the prime minister said during the visit, according to state-run news media. “We should use the power in our hands to serve the interest of the people, helping them to tackle difficulties in a responsible way.”
Dramatically, only one day after the statement, Chang Ping, a prominent newspaper columnist, who challenged government censors by writing about corruption and political reform, was dismissed by the Southern Daily Group, publisher of some of the country’s best-known newspapers. He was urged to leave the position because his bosses were “under pressure” from government propaganda authorities and only his absence would help SDG avoid the following consequences.
Since Mr.Wen and his government declared its effective measures in easing the housing price which proved to be a failure after 40 percent increase, tight control on the ‘Consumer Price Index’ which has consistently raising 4.4% per month also appeared useless. He failed to achieve that what he promised and this time seems not to be an exceptional either. He might have to eat his words again, which is not unusual in China.
Since P.R.C has been founded in 1949, Chinese people have been suffering from a lack of freedom of speech in a rather long time. This situation went even worse when the Culture Revolution began in 1966. Though the Culture Revolution has come to an end thirty five years ago, the fear of political pressure is still deeply rooted in almost every Chinese people’s mind. Date back to 1989, we are aware that Chinese people have fight for free speech, but due to various political and secure reasons, freedom of speech still sound like a fairy tale in China as the Communists thought some purposed and manipulated speeches would potentially jeopardize the welfare of society and people. Out of the concerns for coping with the irrational mobs and difficulties in differentiating them, restrictions are generally applied into legal and public media system for individuals to benefit from their basic rights in China.
Nonetheless, Mr. Wen’s statement is at least a signal showing that China’s leaders are making efforts towards “building a government of the people, by the people, for the people.” Although we know it probably would be another ‘much has been said and little done’, we have had enough, and so do him?