Thursday, 18 November 2010

NST: When you're a victim in China, just grin and bear it

This is an interesting article from our New Straits Times:

When you're a victim in China, just grin and bear it

IN China, victims -- whether of natural disasters, of criminals or of government malfeasance -- should always keep one thing in mind: things could get worse, much worse. If they try to seek justice by going to court, lodging a complaint or talking to the media, they are likely to be treated like criminals themselves.

Thus, parents of the thousands of children who died in poorly constructed schools during the 2008 Sichuan earthquake came under pressure to sign contracts under which they would receive compensation in return for their silence. Those who refused to sign got nothing.

A teacher, Liu Shaokun, who took photos of collapsed school buildings and put them online, was accused of disseminating rumours and destroying social order and sentenced to a year of re-education through labour, an administrative punishment.

An activist, Huang Qi, who criticised the government's response to the earthquake, was sentenced to three years in prison.

Last month, two female students at Hebei University were struck by a car driven by Li Qiming, whose father, Li Gang, is deputy director of the public security bureau.

The younger Li drove away without stopping and, when caught, said simply: "My father is Li Gang". That was all the protection he needed, a powerful father.

One of the two women, 20-year-old Chen Xiaofeng, died and her father, Chen Guangqian, now lives in fear.

"We don't have any connections," he reportedly said in an interview. "We won't be able to just find anyone we want. It's also hard for us to find evidence and information."

The Chen family has come under pressure to accept compensation -- and keep quiet. According to Chen's lawyer, Zhang Kai, a gag order has been issued and not a single witness who saw the accident has stepped forward.

Last week, Zhao Lianhai, widely considered a hero for having campaigned on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of babies sickened by drinking tainted milk -- at least six of whom died -- was sentenced to 21/2 years in prison. What was his crime?

Zhao himself was a victim. His infant son drank Sanlu Group milk, laced with the chemical melamine to make it look as though it was high in protein and, as a result, the baby developed a kidney stone in 2008.

The Beijing native, after realising that there was a huge number of victims, worked to bring them together so that they could exchange information and join forces to seek justice. He created a website called "Home for Kidney Stone Babies" and urged aggrieved parents not to accept a compensation plan endorsed by the government.

Under the plan, payments would stop when a victim turned 18. But, Zhao argued, no one knows the long-term impact of melamine poisoning. What if they should be sick after they turn 18?

Zhao organised a meeting in a restaurant for parents of afflicted children. He also took part in several protests outside courthouses when cases were heard against milk companies. He held up small signs that said "Return health to our children" and "We want justice".

It was for these activities that he was arrested. He was charged with "picking quarrels and provoking trouble".

Certainly, the Chinese government was not responsible for the Sichuan earthquake. It also cannot be held liable for traffic accidents, even when the perpetrators are children of powerful officials.

But it has a responsibility to protect the welfare of its citizens and, in the Sanlu milk case, it failed miserably. For one thing, it exempted the company from inspections. How can any responsible government do that?

Then, when victimised parents organised to protest, the government treated them as the enemy, with threats and harassment, followed by arrest and imprisonment.

It appears that any attempt to seek justice in China, no matter how valid your cause, will be opposed by the government, which sees any organised protest as a threat.

This is a government that is even-handed. It will treat criminal and victim alike, meting out stern punishment to both. Thus, it executed several people responsible for the milk scandal and threw others in prison. But it has shown that it can be similarly tough with the victims of such criminals, throwing them in prison, too, if they make too much of a fuss.

In the government's eyes, anyone with a grievance is a potential troublemaker.

So, when you're a victim in China, just grin and bear it. Remember, fighting for justice will simply make things much worse.

Read the rest here.

Over here in our blessed country there are people here who wants to collect 100,000 signatures to force the Government to call for a Royal Commission of Inquiry to investigate the death of Teoh Beng Hock even though the inquest to the cause of his death had just ended and the Coroner has yet to announce his findings, read here.

What a difference between the two countries which are poles apart on how their Government treat their citizens or rather should I say how their citizen treat their Government.

Malaysia is indeed a great place to live.

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