Chinese news reports from Guangdong’s “two meetings” offer rare glimpse of heated political debate

By David Bandurski — As the wooden, carefully crafted proceedings of the recent 17th National Congress painfully demonstrated, the public face of Chinese politics is all about, well, “face.” But yesterday’s news brought what by Chinese standards was a jarring story of open and edgy political exchange.

According to reports from newspapers across China, debates on the floor of Guangdong Province‘s “two meetings” (people’s congress and political consultative conference/两会) really heated up this week.

smd-on-gd-leaders.jpg

[ABOVE: Southern Metropolis Daily coverage today of Guangdong’s provincial party congress. Headline: “Edgy speech by delegate repeatedly interrupted.” Subhead: “Speaker emphasizes that delegates to the meeting are free to express their opinions, interrupter says, ‘These aren’t the opinions of our delegation’, and leaves early.”]

During a delegate working group (代表团小组) discussion forum on Wednesday, the Guangzhou delegation reportedly launched into an intense discussion of management systems for judicial organs and the problem of moonlighting by government employees for private firms (which raises the question of abuse of official duty).

Addressing the issue of an independent judicial system, National People’s Congress delegate Li Yongzhong (李永忠) said one of the principal problems was local protectionism. “I’ve been an NPC delegate for several terms now, and I often receive complaints from ordinary people about cases that are clear cut,” Li said.

Why wasn’t justice served in these cases, Li asked:

Because of interference by local protectionism. Right now, the courts and prosecutor’s offices at various levels in our country are given financial allocations by the government at that same level. As personnel, financial and material matters are rooted in the local government, its very difficult to expect these courts to render independent rulings.

“Therefore,” said Li, “we must go ahead with reforms by which the central government would directly handle fund allocation [for the courts].”

Delegate Li advised that judicial and inspection organs (司法检查机关), including judicial appointments, be directly handled by the central government, as is the case with customs and other organizations. Tensions mounted after Li’s comments, according to the Information Times:

As discussions over management systems for judicial organs continued and deepened, many delegates became anxious about Li Yongzhong’s ideas, and one made his opposition to his point of view clear. “This is what you’re saying, but we won’t dare say it. You can say it here, but you can’t say it in front of the central government!”

When a reporter started taking pictures, this delegate filed out of the meeting room because the topic under discussion was too sensitive.

According to a report in today’s Southern Metropolis Daily, Li Yongzhong was interrupted by a delegate who left the meeting early, saying, “These aren’t the opinions of our delegation.”

UPDATE:
Comments on Shenzhen-based Web portal QQ.com surpassed 10,000 as of 1:55pm January 25. Here’s a taste:

[From Shenzhen] That representative who left, he’s probably from the prosecutor’s office (procuratorate) anyway, and had his ass kissed all the way up to the people’s congress. It’s even possible he paid for his post as a delegate. How pathetic!

[From Guangzhou] All of those present were officials (做官) . . . Only Li Yongzhong was there as a people’s representative, saying some things that we all know to be true . . . The people there couldn’t stand it and said right away that it had nothing to do with them. How are they any different from feudal officials? They don’t even dare open their mouths, much less talk about discovering and solving problems . . .

[From Futian] Actually, that delegate gave up his credentials as a ‘people’s representative’ as soon as he abandoned the floor. But there are so many of these kinds of so-called ‘representatives.’ They’ve become the ‘talking dogs’ of a bad system. In the name of justice and social conscience, we should make these delegates get the hell out.

[From Shenzhen] I’m totally in support of Li Yongzhong. That delegate that left should be exposed so the whole whole country can remember his idiocy.

[From Guangzhou] We should have the guy’s name so we can see what he looks like!

[From Yichang City] This fake people’s congress system has reached the point where it must be changed!

[From Shenzhen] I‘m firmly in favor of getting rid of that guy who left. He’s not worthy of being a people’s representative.

[Posted January 25, 2008, 11:35am HK]

2 Comments to “Chinese news reports from Guangdong’s “two meetings” offer rare glimpse of heated political debate”

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